U.S. Army General David Rodriguez

Article excerpt

Byline: Eli Lake

Obama's pick to lead the war on terror in Africa.

Last week, French forces unleashed an air campaign in Mali, amidst reports that Islamists were close to overrunning the government. (U.S. military sources tell Newsweek that the Pentagon is helping to provide intelligence support, although the Obama administration is not advertising that fact.) Then, a few days later, a group affiliated with al Qaeda took hostages--including several Americans--at a gas field in eastern Algeria. Soon, the Algerian government was storming the facility.

In other words: welcome to your new job, David Rodriguez. Back in October, President Obama nominated the 58-year-old general to take over U.S. Africa Command. Rodriguez is still awaiting confirmation by the Senate, but once installed he'll inherit responsibility for what increasingly looks like the central front in the war on terror.

An imposing 6-foot-5 man who played defensive end at West Point, Rodriguez was one of the principal authors of Obama's counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, where he served as a deputy to both David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal. Colleagues describe him as someone who is especially good at holding opposing views in his mind and seeking out dissent. (He was also said to be an affable presence in Afghanistan: Roger Carstens, a retired Green Beret who helped lead the team that evaluated the implementation of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, describes him as "entirely approachable," while Kim Field, who served as his executive officer in 2010 and 2011, says he's particularly fond of slapstick humor and practical jokes.)

Unlike Petraeus and McChrystal, Rodriguez largely stayed out of the public eye during his time in the country. …