David Petraeus

U.S. Army General David Petraeus became director of the CIA in 2011. He resigned from the post in 2012, after his extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell was publicized.


U.S. Army General David Petraeus was born in New York on November 7, 1952, and was commissioned into the infantry as a second lieutenant after graduating from Military Academy at West Point in 1974. Petraeus served the military in a number of capacities before being appointed by President George W. Bush in 2007 to lead the American military "surge" in Iraq. He became director of the CIA under President Barack Obama in 2011, but resigned in late 2012 after his extramarital affair with writer Paula Broadwell was exposed. He later entered into a plea deal with the Justice Deparment, admitting he had shared classified governmental information with Broadwell.

Younger Years

U.S. General David Howell Petraeus was born on November 7, 1952, in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. His mother, Miriam, was a librarian, and his father, Sixtus, worked as a sea captain. Sixtus Petraeus, originally from the Netherlands, immigrated to the United States at the beginning of World War II. During the war, he steered merchant vessels back and forth across the dangerous waters of the embattled Atlantic. General Petraeus freely talks about his own steely determination and drive as being part of his heritage.

After graduating from high school in Cornwall, Petraeus headed straight for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was here that the young man's drive for success started emerging fully. Petraeus was part of an elite group of students known as "Star Men," as well as a member of several collegiate athletic teams. Most notably, he won a spot in the Academy's pre-medical academic track, to which only 10 out of almost 1,000 students were accepted. Later in life, he admitted that he had not had a particular interest in medicine, but that, "In a lot of ways, I think I climbed that particular academic mountain just because it was the toughest one to climb."

Early Career

After graduating from West Point in 1974, Petraeus joined the infantry as a distinguished cadet. Soon after graduation, he completed a grueling nine weeks at Ranger School, not only finishing the course, but also winning top honors and legendary status among his classmates. Steadily ascending the ranks, Petraeus worked in many different capacities and for several different units within the Army.

In the 1980s, Petraeus, then ranked captain, devoted much of his time to education. He spent a year at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, attending the Command and General Staff College. There, he won the school's General George C. Marshall Award for top graduate. He spent the next two years at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, earning a master's degree and then a doctorate degree in international relations. After a few years in New Jersey, Petraeus returned to West Point, serving as a professor of international relations.

In 1987, Petraeus left academia to return to military service, and soon began climbing the military ladder once again. In 1991, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and commanding officer of a battalion within the 101st Airborne Division. During this assignment, he was wounded during a training exercise when an infantryman tripped and discharged his M16 by mistake. The lieutenant colonel was rushed to emergency surgery at nearby Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After a successful operation performed by future U.S. Senator Bill Frist, Petraeus recovered quickly and was released in only a few short days.

Acclaimed Military General

By the late 1990s, Petraeus's career was full of promise. In 2000, at 46 years old, he achieved the rank of brigadier general. The next year, he sustained another injury from which he soon recovered: his parachute collapsed during a training jump, causing him to break his pelvis. In the early 2000s, Petraeus served in Bosnia as part of the NATO Stabilization Force, as both assistant chief of staff for operations and deputy commander of the U.S. Joint Interagency Counter-Terrorism Task Force. For his efforts there, Petraeus was promoted to lieutenant general in 2004. He was made a full general in 2007.

Petraeus really began attracting Washington's attention in 2003 with his command of the 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad, Iraq, and, later, in Mosul. He had written his doctoral thesis about counterinsurgency in Vietnam, and had continued to refine his ideas during tours in places like Central America and Bosnia. Petraeus soon began enacting what is now known as the "hearts and minds" approach to winning supporters among the local populations. His approach called for more troops and more investment in nation building, which ran in opposition to President George W. Bush's strategy at the time. However, when the administration changed its course in Iraq in 2006, Petraeus's rise to the top continued.

At the behest of President Bush, Petraeus was sent to Iraq in 2007 to implement his new counter-insurgency ideas. He succeeded General Casey as commanding general of Multi-National Forces in Iraq. With a nod from Congress and 30,000 more troops to bring to Iraq, the general began instituting what is sometimes called the "Petraeus Doctrine," which served to suppress the level of violence in Iraq. After playing a historic role in Iraq, Petraeus moved on. In 2008, he took up a post as commanding officer of the U.S. Central Command, which coordinates the military's operations worldwide.

The following year, Petraeus announced that he had been diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer; he and his family (wife Holly Knowlton, the daughter of Army General William A. Knowlton, and their two children, Anne and Stephen) had kept the diagnosis private at first, but announced in October 2009 that Petraeus was undergoing radiation therapy.

In 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Petraeus to command U.S. forces in Afghanistan in place of General Stanley McChrystal. Less than a year later, the general found himself for the first time contemplating civilian life, once again at the behest of the commander in chief. In early 2011, President Obama appointed Petraeus director of the Central Intelligence Agency (replacing Leon Panetta).

Affair With Paula Broadwell

On November 9, 2012, Petraeus suddenly resigned from his newly appointed CIA post. The announcement came soon after Petraeus's extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell was exposed. The general apologized for his actions in a letter to his staff: "Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as a leader of an organization such as ours," he wrote.

Soon after news broke about the scandal, it was reported that Jill Kelley, a longtime friend of the Petraeus family, had helped the FBI expose the affair between Petraeus and Broadwell. Kelley reportedly went to the bureau after receiving threatening emails, which were traced back to Broadwell. (Reports alleged that Broadwell sent the emails because she felt threatened by Kelley's friendship with Petraeus.) During the investigation, the FBI found evidence in other emails of a sexual relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell.

Petraeus went on to become a partner at the New York private equity firm KKR & Company, also working the lecture circuit and continuing to advise the White House about certain foreign matters. In March 2015, Petraeus made a plea deal with the Justice Department, admitting that he had shared classified governmental information with Broadwell via his personal notebooks. He had previously denied doing so in statements to the FBI. As a result, Petraeus was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

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