Key members of President Obama's national security team are preparing to leave their jobs beginning this summer, forcing the administration to fill several critical posts as it prepares to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and as turmoil continues in West Asia.
Among those who have announced the intention to leave or are due to rotate out of existing jobs include Robert M Gates, defense secretary; Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; General David Petraeus, commander of international forces in Afghanistan; and Karl W Eikenberry, US ambassador to Kabul. In some cases, the officials will retire. In others, they will transfer to new roles.
"For a country at war to lose its entire chain of command at the same time, more or less, is an extraordinary and fraught development," said Michael E O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "The good news is that we have some very able people willing to continue in one way or the other."
The impending departures of Gates and Mullen, both holdovers from the George W Bush administration, will open the top two defence positions and probably trigger other vacancies.
Early on, Obama was praised for appearing to value competence above all else in his appointments, notably in his choices of Gates, as defense secretary, and Hillary Clinton, a political rival, as secretary of state. But with some recent vacancies, he has chosen to elevate advisers with whom he feels most comfortable - a pattern that disappoints some analysts hoping for an injection of new ideas.
(In Exclusive Partnership with The Washington Post)