GENERAL David Petraeus, the Director of the CIA, dramatically resigned his post last night as it emerged the FBI was investigating an extramarital affair he was allegedly conducting with his biographer.
The former Army commander, who led US forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq before taking charge of America’s top intelligence agency, was under investigation by federal agents concerned that the affair could pose a national security risk.
The former four-star general submitted his resignation to President Barack Obama at the White House, saying: “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behaviour is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organisation such as ours.”
Petraeus is seen with Paula Broadwell, his biographer, who has been named in unconfirmed reports as the woman he had an affair with.
The FBI’s probe looked into allegations that Gen Petraeus was involved in a sexual relationship with Paula Broadwell, an author to whom he granted unprecedented access while posted in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011.
The bureau’s counter-intelligence unit is tasked with ensuring that senior government officials are not left vulnerable to blackmail because of incidents in their personal lives.
NBC News reported last night that the FBI was looking into allegations that Mrs Broadwell had tried to access the general’s email account but that criminal charges against her were not expected.
In her book All In: the Education of General Petraeus, the married mother-of-two described how she would go on long-distance runs with the general through the Afghan countryside and spent weeks embedded with him and his staff.
Discussing their runs in Afghanistan together, she has said: "When I was in Kabul we would do a lot of interviews on runs, for him I think it was a good distraction from the war."
Asked whether she ever felt "like he dropped his guard with you?" she replied "No, no dirty secrets".
"He would pick up the pace so neither of us could talk," she added
Mrs Broadwell did not respond to a message left by the Daily Telegraph at her home in North Carolina, nor efforts to contact her through her publishing agent. The reports naming her as the woman in question are unconfirmed.
Reports also claimed Broadwell was being investigated by the FBI over accessing Petraeus' email.
Before becoming a journalist, Mrs Broadwell served in the military for 15 years and, like the general, is a graduate of US Military Academy at West Point.
Gen Petraeus is married to Holly Petraeus, a senior official in Mr Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she leads an agency that works to protect members of the military and their families from abusive money-lenders.
During his confirmation hearing before the US Senate, Gen Petraeus described his wife as “bright, nice, small, and a pit bull - someone you want in your corner”.
Mr Obama praised the outgoing CIA director “as one of the outstanding General officers of his generation” and said “my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus”.
The President announced that Michael Morrell, Gen Petraeus’s deputy, would step in as acting director of the agency and that he was “completely confident” that the CIA’s work would continue uninterrupted.
Although seen as a figure above partisan politics, Gen Petraeus’s agency came under criticism from Republicans over its role in the September 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
He was due to testify next before a Senate committee investigating the attack but officials confirmed last night that his sudden resignation meant he would no longer be asked to appear.
Two former US Navy SEALs who were killed in the attack were initially reported to have been subcontractors of the State Department but it later emerged that they were armed employees of the CIA.
His resignation brings a shocking end to the career of a man often touted as a future presidential contender.
The 60-year-old, who is known for his iron discipline and can still run two miles in under ten minutes, was credited with leading a turnaround in the US war effort in Iraq under President George W Bush, when he spearheaded the 2007 “surge” against the insurgency.
Mr Obama then tapped him to replace General Stanley McChrystal as the leader of international forces in Afghanistan after Gen McChrystal was forced to resign following the publication of a Rolling Stone article in which his aides openly mocked Vice President Joe Biden and other senior administration officials.
Gen Petraeus was made CIA director by Mr Obama in September 2011, in what was viewed as a savvy move by the President to sideline a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Washington had long buzzed with rumours of departure, with many speculating that he wanted to leave to become president of Princeton University, but his sudden departure jolted the capital just as it was returning to a post-election footing.
In 1991, Gen Petraeus was in the shot in the chest with an assault rifle during a live-fire training exercise. Nine years later, he shattered his pelvis when he made a hard landing after his parachute collapsed at low altitude.