Somewhere behind the Times of London paywall, there is a report that General David Petraeus is preparing to step down as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and that the search is already on for his replacement. Petraeus took command of the Afghan war effort last summer following Stanley McChrystal's dismissal over remarks made in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine.

The Pentagon is already denying the story, but Reuters blogger Myra MacDonald says talk of the popular general's departure is not that far-fetched. Acknowledging Petraeus has emerged as a "towering figure" in U.S. foreign policy for leading the troop surge in Iraq, MacDonald suggests Petraeus could succeed Admiral Mike Mullen as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such a move, coupled with the pending departure of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates "could create the space for Obama to recalibrate Afghan strategy, backing away from the military surge and focusing more on a political settlement - if he wants to do so. The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung also notes "virtually the entire U.S. civilian and military leadership in Afghanistan is expected to leave in the coming months," including Petraeus and other high-level U.S. leaders.

Even the Pentagon's denials of the Times report leave room for interpretation. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell tells Reuters that "General Petraeus is not quitting," before hastening to add "nor does he plan to stay in Afghanistan forever."

In other words, stay tuned.