David H. Petraeus, the CIA director, resigned Friday after issuing a statement saying that he had engaged in an extramarital affair.
The sudden development came just days after President Barack Obama won re-election to a second term. Petraeus, a highly decorated general who had led the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had been expected to remain in the president’s cabinet.
Instead, Petraeus said in the statement that the president accepted his resignation Friday after he had informed him of his indiscretion a day earlier.
“After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair,” Petraeus wrote. “Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours. This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”
The development came as a shock to the national security establishment. In a statement, James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, called the decision “a loss” to the country.
“Dave’s decision to step down represents the loss of one of our nation’s most respected public servants.” Clapper wrote. “From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one’s country.”
Over the past several years, Petraeus had become one of the most recognizable military officials, serving as the public face of the war effort in Congress and on television.
Under President George W. Bush, Petraeus was credited for helping to develop and put in place the “surge” in troops in Iraq that helped wind down the war in that country. Petraeus was moved to Afghanistan in 2010 after Obama fired Gen. Stanley H. McChrystal over comments he made to a magazine reporter.
In Afghanistan, Petraeus led the push for a similar increase in troops ordered by Obama, but he was unable to replicate the success he had in the Iraq conflict.
Last year, Obama persuaded Petraeus to leave the Army after 37 years to lead the CIA, succeeding Leon Panetta, who moved to the Defense Department.