David Petraeus Biography

(4th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2011 - 2012))

Birthday: November 7, 1952 (Scorpio)

Born In: Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, United States

David Howell Petraeus is a retired four-star general of the United States Army and public official who served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He served the United States Army for over three decades and his last assignment in the Army was that of Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). He was nominated as commanding general of the ISAF in Afghanistan by the then US President Barrack Obama while Petraeus was serving as Commander of United States Central Command. He gave up the command of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and retired from the Army after he was unanimously confirmed as Director of the CIA by the US Senate. He held the post for little over a year before placing his resignation after a FBI investigation led to the discovery of his extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. The Petraeus scandal garnered considerable media attention amidst allegations that Petraeus provided classified information to Broadwell while he was holding office as Director of the CIA. He eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: David Howell Petraeus

Age: 71 Years, 71 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Holly Knowlton

father: Sixtus Petraeus

mother: Miriam Howell

children: Stephen Petraeus

Born Country: United States

Military Leaders Government Officials

Height: 1.75 m

Ancestry: Dutch American

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Princeton University, United States Military Academy

awards: Bronze Star Medal
Legionnaire of Legion of Merit
Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
Legion of Merit

Childhood & Early Life

David Howell Petraeus was born on November 7, 1952, in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, US, in the family of Sixtus Petraeus and Miriam Sweet (née Howell). His father was a Dutch sea captain from Franeker, Netherlands, and his mother was an American librarian.

Petraeus graduated from Cornwall Central High School in 1970 and then earned a B.S. degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point as a distinguished cadet graduating in top 5% of his class in 1974. He then attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and emerged as the top graduate of Class of 1983 earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Military Science and receiving the General George C. Marshall Award.

He later obtained an M.P.A. in 1985 and a Ph.D. degree in international relations in 1987 from Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. While doing his Ph.D., Petraeus served the U.S. Military Academy as an assistant professor of international relations from 1985 to 1987. Later in 1994–95, he completed a military fellowship in Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

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Military Service

Following graduation from West Point, Petraeus was delegated as an infantry officer; and after he completed Ranger School, he was assigned to the 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team in Vicenza, Italy.

He became First Lieutenant in 1976, Captain in 1978, Major in 1985, Lieutenant Colonel in 1991 and Colonel in 1995. During Operation Uphold Democracy, in 1995, Petraeus was delegated to the United Nations Mission in Haiti Military Staff as its chief operations officer. Thereafter from 1995 to 1997, he commanded the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

He served as executive assistant in the Pentagon from 1997 to 1999, first to the director of the Joint Staff and later to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

After becoming a Brigadier General in 1999, Petraeus served as the assistant division commander for operations in the 82nd Airborne Division and thereafter as acting commanding general for a short while. He went to Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Spring during such tenure. During 2000–01, he served as chief of staff of XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg. He went to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of Operation Joint Forge during 2001-02.

With time Petraeus moved up the command ladder and became Major General in 2003, Lieutenant General in 2004, and General in 2007. From February 10, 2007, to September 16, 2008, he served as commanding general of Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) and oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq. He became the 10th commander of U.S. Central Command on October 13, 2008 and held the position till June 30, 2010.

The then US President Barack Obama nominated him as commanding general of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan on June 23, 2010. Petraeus commanded the ISAF and the United States Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from July 4 that year to July 18, 2011, marking his last four-star assignment.

On August 31, 2011, Petraeus retired from the US Army. He received the Army Distinguished Service Medal from Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn during his retirement ceremony held at Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall.

Director of the CIA, Petraeus Scandal & Resignation

On April 28, 2011, President Obama declared that he nominated Petraeus to succeed Leon Panetta as the 4th Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The US Senate confirmed the nomination on June 30, 2011, and Petraeus was sworn in as the new CIA Director on September 6, 2011, at the White House.

According to reports, after Petraeus left his ISAF command to become CIA director, he started an extra-marital affair with Paula Broadwell, the main author of his biography ‘All In: The Education of General David Petraeus’. He called it quits during the summer of 2012 after he came to know that Broadwell was sending harassing emails to his long-time family friend Jill Kelley.

An investigation of FBI initiated to trace the anonymous emails sent to Kelley, which she considered threatening, led to the findings that the mails were sent from Broadwell’s account. In the course of such investigation, the FBI reportedly discovered that Broadwell and Petraeus were exchanging intimate email messages with each other. It was reported by Associated Press that instead of sending emails to each other's inbox, the two would leave messages for each other in a draft folder so that one can read message of the other by logging into the same account.

The series of events associated with extramarital affair of Petraeus with Broadwell garnered strong media attention. In a turn of events, James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence and nominal superior of Petraeus, called the latter on November 6, 2012, and urged him to resign. President Obama summoned Petraeus to the White House on November 8, 2012, where Petraeus offered his resignation which was accepted by President Obama on the following day.

Petraeus eventually pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling the classified data that he provided to Broadwell while serving as Director of CIA. He was sentenced to two years probation and an additional fine of $100,000 by a federal judge on April 23, 2015.

Other Endeavours

Petraeus became honorary chairman of the OSS Society in March 2013. He was named as a Judge Widney Professor by the University of Southern California in May 2013 and a visiting professor at Macaulay Honors College in July that year. In May same year, Petraeus was hired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P., as chairman of the newly founded KKR Global Institute. He became a partner at KKR in December 2014.

He is also associated with several organisations as member of board of directors including ‘Atlantic Council’, ‘Optiv Inc’, and ‘Fort Campbell Historical Foundation’; as member of board of advisors in organisations like ‘Team Rubicon’ and ‘The Alexander Hamilton Society’; and as member of advisory council of organisations such as ‘Institute for the Study of War’ and ‘American Corporate Partners’.

Honorary degrees conferred to Petraeus include honorary doctorate of laws from University of Pennsylvania (2012) and honorary doctorate of humane letters from American University of Afghanistan, (2019). Over the years, Petraeus received several national and international awards including Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), State Department Secretary's Distinguished Service Award, United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) Medal, and French Military Campaign Medal among others.

Family & Personal Life

Petraeus met his future wife Holly, daughter of Army General William A. Knowlton, when he was a cadet at the United States Military Academy. The two dated for some time and married in 1974, months after Petraeus’ graduation. Holly served as Assistant Director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The couple have a daughter Anne and a son Stephen. A small property inherited by Holly in Springfield, New Hampshire, is the official residence of Petraeus in the US.

Petraeus administered the oath of office during Stephen’s commissioning into the Army in 2009. In February same year Petraeus was diagnosed with early-stage of prostate cancer and had to undergo a radiation treatment for two months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

See the events in life of David Petraeus in Chronological Order

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