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Obama's new national security team faces major challenges

President Obama's new national security team, headed by Leon Panetta and General David Petraeus, has a wealth of experience. But it faces major challenges, especially in Afghanistan.

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President Barack Obama announces a shake up with his national security team by nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta (2nd L) as Secretary of Defense and U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus (C) to replace Panetta, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday April 28. Obama also announced Ryan Crocker (R) as his nomination to be the new Ambassador to Afghanistan and U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen (2nd R) to be the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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In announcing his new national security team Thursday, President Obama sought to demonstrate confidence and continuity at a time when the US is trying to conclude its active military engagement in several places around the world.

Events on the ground – mainly in Afghanistan, where evidence of solid progress remains elusive – will determine whether he succeeds.

But the men named to critical military, intelligence, and diplomatic posts are generally agreed (at least within the Washington establishment) to be the best there are under the circumstances. They all have decades of experience in their fields, and they all have worked well together in the past.

Here are the shifts in personnel announced Thursday:

• CIA Director Leon Panetta will replace Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense.

General David Petraeus will retire from the US Army to take over the CIA from Mr. Panetta.

US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen will become commander of allied forces in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. Petraeus.

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