David Petraeus, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, resigned on Friday after publicly admitting to an extramarital affair.
The retired four-star general decided to step down to deal with "personal and professional issues" regarding a woman who is not his wife.
Petraeus was sworn in as CIA director in September 2011. He previously served as the commander of U.S. Central Command, and at the helm of the multinational force in Afghanistan.
He was one of the most respected figures in military and intelligence communities, and is widely regarded for his role in successfully repressing the anti-American insurgency in Iraq.
Michael Morell, the deputy director of the CIA, will now serve as acting director, according to a White House statement.
In a letter to CIA staff obtained by U.S. News, Petraeus said he showed “extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extra marital affair” after 37 years of marriage.
“Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” he wrote.
Petraeus thanked “the officers of our Nation’s Silent Service” and hailed their “extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director.”
President Barack Obama praised Petraeus for his “extraordinary service to the United States” in a Friday afternoon statement.
“By any measure, he was one of the outstanding General officers of his generation, helping our military adapt to new challenges, and leading our men and women in uniform through a remarkable period of service in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he helped our nation put those wars on a path to a responsible end,” Obama said.
“As Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, he has continued to serve with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism. By any measure, through his lifetime of service David Petraeus has made our country safer and stronger.”
Obama also expressed his confidence in Morell.
The announcement comes days before Petraeus and other senior officials were scheduled to testify before Congress about the assault on a State Department compound in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Petraeus would have appeared with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, FBI Director Sean Joyce and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matt Olsen, reports CNN.com, in the closed-door hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Nov. 15.
The following message was released to the CIA workforce this afternoon:
Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. 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.
As I depart Langley, I want you to know that it has been the greatest of privileges to have served with you, the officers of our Nation’s Silent Service, a work force that is truly exceptional in every regard. Indeed, you did extraordinary work on a host of critical missions during my time as director, and I am deeply grateful to you for that.
Teddy Roosevelt once observed that life’s greatest gift is the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing. I will always treasure my opportunity to have done that with you and I will always regret the circumstances that brought that work with you to an end.
Thank you for your extraordinary service to our country, and best wishes for continued success in the important endeavors that lie ahead for our country and our Agency.
With admiration and appreciation,
David H. Petraeus
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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org