- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gen. David H. Petraeus, credited for a counterinsurgency plan that turned the tide in Iraq, now will be in charge of two wars, and top Pentagon officials hope that his leadership will have the same success in Afghanistan.

The four-star general said he will gladly accept his new role as chief of U.S. Central Command.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday announced the nomination of Gen. Petraeus to replace Adm. William J. Fallon, who retired from the military last month after making public statements about Iran that were not in line with administration policy.

“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,” Gen. Petraeus said in a statement from Baghdad yesterday afternoon.

Congressional officials said his confirmation by the Senate should advance without major challenges.

Mr. Gates said Gen. Petraeus will be replaced in Iraq by Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, now commander of the Army’s 3rd Corps based at Fort Hood, Texas. Central Command’s current No. 2, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, has acted as interim commander since March 31.

The defense secretary said Gen. Petraeus’ experience and proven capabilities led to the nomination, as extremist groups are resurging along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and global terrorism has become an international concern.

“The kind of conflicts that we’re dealing with not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, and some of the challenges that we face elsewhere in the region, in the Central Command area, are very much characterized by asymmetric [guerrilla] warfare,” the Pentagon chief said.

“I don’t know anybody in the United States military better qualified to lead that effort,” Mr. Gates said.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he has great respect for Gen. Petraeus, but “if confirmed, Gen. Petraeus’ mission will no longer be just Iraq; it will be the entire region, including the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area where those who actually attacked us on 9/11 have regrouped … and where we do not have enough troops because of Iraq.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, told the Washington Times that “Gens. Petraeus and Odierno have exhibited superb leadership in the Iraqi theater of operation” and credited the commanders with “much of the progress in Iraq.”

Mr. Hunter said Gen. Petraeus’ experience and expertise in “counterinsurgency operations will be a valuable asset to our ongoing security efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and elsewhere in region.”

Mr. Gates asked the Senate to move the nominations “expeditiously, hopefully by Memorial Day, so their families and we can plan appropriately.”

Adm. Fallon resigned last month after Esquire published a feature article that portrayed him as the lone voice against using force against Iran.

Mr. Gates said Adm. Fallon’s resignation was unexpected.

“It’s my belief that General Odierno, General Petraeus and Admiral 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 is killing American servicemen and -women,” Mr. Gates said.

He said Gen. Petraeus, 55, is expected to take command in late summer or early fall.

Lt. Gen. Odierno completed a 15-month tour of duty in February as the top deputy to Gen. Petraeus in Baghdad. Gen. Odierno was considered for promotion to full general and assignment as the Army’s vice chief of staff, but Mr. Gates said Adm. Fallon’s resignation changed the plan.

Central Command oversees the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The command is based in Tampa, Fla., and its responsibility is the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

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