Gen. David H. Petraeus, the face of the Iraq troop surge and a favorite of former President George W. Bush, spoke up or was called upon by President Obama â€œseveral timesâ€ during the big Afghanistan strategy session in the Situation Room last week, one participant says, and will be back for two more meetings this week.
But the generalâ€™s closest associates say that underneath the surface of good relations, the celebrity commander faces a new reality in Mr. Obamaâ€™s White House: He is still at the table, but in a very different seat.
No longer does the man who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have one of the biggest voices at National Security Council meetings, as he did when Mr. Bush gave him 20 minutes during hourlong weekly sessions to present his views in live video feeds from Baghdad. No longer is the general, with the Capitol Hill contacts and web of e-mail relationships throughout Washingtonâ€™s journalism establishment, testifying in media explosions before Congress, as he did in September 2007, when he gave 34 interviews in three days.
The change has fueled speculation in Washington about whether General Petraeus might seek the presidency in 2012. His advisers say that it is absurd â€” but in immediate policy terms, it means there is one less visible advocate for the military in the administrationâ€™s debate over whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.
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