Petraeus to Lead CENTCOM

Zaphod

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Sounds like a good choice to me:

Link to story.

Petraeus To Head US Middle East Forces



General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, was tapped Wednesday to lead US forces in the Middle East in a major shift in the military command at a time of growing tensions with Iran.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Petraeus would be replaced in Iraq by his former number two, General Raymond Odierno, who commanded day-to-day operations during a "surge" of US troops that sharply reduced violence there.

"With the concurrence of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I have recommended and the president has accepted and will nominate General David Petraeus as the new commander of the Central Command," he said.

The position opened last month when Admiral William Fallon abruptly stepped down saying reports of differences with the White House on how to deal with Iran had become "a distraction."

The nomination, which must be approved by the Senate, puts Petraeus in charge of the US military's biggest challenges -- Iraq, an expanding military effort in Afghanistan, an Al-Qaeda revival in Pakistan, and challenges from Iran on various fronts.

Gates said he had recommended Petraeus, whose three-year term would extend into the next US administration, "because I'm absolutely confident that he is the best man for the job."

Noting the "asymmetric" challenges US forces face in the region, Gates said: "I don't know anybody in the US military who is better qualified to lead in that area."

"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, coastguardsmen, and civilians," Petraeus said in a statement.

Gates was asked whether Petraeus's nomination signaled a turn to a harder line on Iran than that taken by Fallon who had emphasized diplomacy and dialogue in dealing with the Islamic republic.

But he replied that Odierno, Petraeus and Fallon "were all in exactly the same position when it came to their views of Iranian interference inside Iraq.

"And it is a hard position because what the Iranians are doing was killing American servicemen, and inside Iraq. And so I don't think that there is any difference among them on that issue whatsoever," he said.

In testimony to Congress earlier this month, in which he called for an indefinite suspension of a US drawdown of troops when the 2007 surge ends in July, Petraeus highlighted Iran's "destructive" role in backing armed Shiite "special groups."

"Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Two days later, President George W. Bush declared Al-Qaeda and Iran as "two of the greatest threats facing America in this new century."

Petraeus has always been careful to confine his public comments on Iran to its activities in Iraq, so his views on how to counter it more broadly in the region are not widely known.

Gates and his top military advisers have made clear that military action against Iran, while not off the table, would be a last resort.

In Afghanistan, Petraeus will have responsibility only for the US forces -- consisting mainly of counter-terrorism units and trainers -- not those in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Gates, who has said the United States plans to send more troops there next year, said an internal debate was underway over command arrangements but any changes would require "some pretty intensive consultations with our allies."

Petraeus will not leave his post in Iraq until late summer or early fall, and he will still make a recommendation in mid-September on whether the drawdown of US forces can continue after the last surge brigade leaves Iraq in July, he said.

The long lead time, and Petraeus's replacement with Odierno were intended to avoid disrupting the momentum gained from the surge and to assure a smooth transition, Gates said.

"I think that the course certainly that General Petraeus has set has been a successful course. So, frankly, I think staying that course is not a bad idea. I would say it's a good idea."
 
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