Gen. Petraeus named as next commander of Mideast command
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the four-star general who led troops in Iraq for the past year, will be nominated by President Bush to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.
Gates said he expected Petraeus to make the shift in late summer or early fall. The Pentagon chief also announced that Bush will nominate Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno to replace Petraeus in Baghdad.
Central Command oversees the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
“I am honored to be nominated for this position and to have an opportunity to continue to serve with America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians,” Petraeus said in a brief statement from Baghdad.
At a hastily arranged Pentagon news conference, Gates said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other problems in the Central Command area of responsibility, demand knowledge of how to fight counterinsurgencies as well as other unconventional conflicts.
“I don’t know anybody in the U.S. military better qualified to lead that effort,” he said, referring to Petraeus.
GOP presidential hopeful John McCain, R-Ariz., said he supports both Petraeus and Odierno. He called Petraeus “one of the great generals in American history.”
Gates said he had consulted with Levin and other senior lawmakers about the nominations. The defense secretary said he anticipated no Capitol Hill obstacles to confirmation.
Asked if moving Petraeus from the Iraq command could interrupt momentum against the insurgency, Gates said that by waiting until late summer or early fall he hoped to “ensure plenty of time to prepare for a good handoff.” He said it also would help that Odierno has had experience as “Petraeus’ right-hand man” over the last year.
If confirmed by the Senate, Petraeus would replace Navy Adm. William Fallon, who abruptly stepped down in March after a magazine reported that he was at odds with President Bush over Iran policy. Fallon said the report was not true but had become a distraction.
Petraeus, 55, is widely hailed by the Bush administration and members of Congress for implementing a new strategy in Iraq, including the deployment of some 30,000 additional troops, that dramatically improved security.
Central Command, whose headquarters is at Tampa, Fla., is responsible for U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa, and thus oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Petraeus, you are most deservedly suitable for the post.
I salute you for a job being well done in Iraq!