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Petraeus resigns over affair, as criticism grows of CIA response in Libya

Officials will want to know if there was any link between David Petraeus’s extramarital activities and what has been increasingly criticized as the CIA’s weak performance during the Benghazi attack.

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This February 2012 file photo shows CIA Director David Petraeus testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington. Petraeus has resigned because of an extramarital affair.

Cliff Owen/AP/File

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CIA Director David Petraeus abruptly resigned Friday, citing an extramarital affair and the need to sort out the “personal and professional issues” involved.

The former commander of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan had built a stellar and nearly unassailable reputation – but mounting criticism of the Central Intelligence Agency’s response to the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attack in September was beginning to tarnish that reputation.

Word of Mr. Petraeus’s resignation sent ripples of stunned surprise through both the intelligence and military communities, raising questions that revolved around how long the affair had been going on and how an officer known for his rigorous self-discipline – and attention to his reputation within the media — could have made such a lapse in judgment.

In a letter of resignation accepted by the White House, Petraeus said he had been married 37 years but had exercised “very poor judgment” in choosing to enter into an extramarital affair.

Petraeus, who was widely celebrated as a military commander and even occasionally mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, was sworn in as head of the CIA in September 2011 – and had kept a low profile since. Now speculation is sure to proliferate over whether that low profile resulted from Petraeus focusing on America’s intelligence gathering or on personal matters.

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