Admiral replaces Abizaid, Petraeus replaces Casey

Update: The NY Times story on the changes in command in Centcom and Iraq confirms some of my speculation below. The story is by Michael Gordon and Thom Shanker:


Admiral Fallon would be the first Navy officer to serve as the senior officer of the Central Command, which is managing simultaneous ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Admiral Fallon is regarded within the military as one of its stronger regional combat commanders, and his possible appointment also reflects a greater emphasis on countering Iranian power, a mission that relies heavily on naval forces and combat airpower to project American influence in the Persian Gulf.

General Petraeus, who is now the head of the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., helped oversee the drafting of the military’s comprehensive new manual on counterinsurgency. He has served two previous tours in Iraq, and some former officers say he sees the need for additional troops in Baghdad.


The troop increase option under discussion would focus on improving security in Baghdad. Under this approach, two Army combat brigades would be sent to the capital during the first phase of the operation. A combat brigade generally consists of about 3,500 soldiers. At the same time, a third brigade would be positioned in Kuwait as a reserve, and two more brigades would be on call in the United States.

The expectation is that these three brigades would eventually be sent to Baghdad as well, though the president would have the option to limit the reinforcements. Part of the increase could be achieved by holding some units past their currently scheduled return home.

Scaling up by five brigades would more than double the number of American combat troops involved in security operations in the Iraqi capital. The emphasis on Baghdad reflects the view that stability in the capital is a precondition for any broader effort to bring calm to the whole country. It is also a recognition that the administration sees sectarian violence as a greater threat to Iraq’s stability than the Sunni Arab insurgency.

At least two battalions would also be added to Anbar. Admiral Fallon comes with high marks from the joint chiefs. He is seen as tough commander. He recently canceled a field exercise with the Philippines because a judge refused to honor an agreement on protection of US personnel. This post gives some of the background on the dispute. The Admiral is looking after his men.

ABC News:

ABC News' Martha Raddatz Reports: ABC News has learned that the president intends to nominate Admiral William J. Fallon to replace General John Abizaid at Central Command. The announcement is expected next week, before the president gives his Iraq strategy speech, according to US officials.

Officials also tell ABC that the replacement as MNF-I commander in Iraq (replacing Gen. George Casey) will be LTG David Petraeus. Though Casey was originally staying in position till June, he is expected to leave earlier than expected probably in the next few months.

The story indicates that Admiral Fallon currently heads Pacific Command. For him it is a lateral move to a more active theater. The story does not indicate whether Marine General Mattis will get a change of assignment. The Petraeus move is not that much of a surprise. The man is intelligent and has had excellent relations with the media. Perhaps he can get them focused on what is really happening in Iraq.

It will be interesting to see if Admiral Fallon's appointment may portend future naval operations against Iran's nuke facilities. This is Pacific Command's bio on Admiral Fallon. He is a naval aviator, with experience in the RA-5C Vigilante with a combat deployment to Vietnam, transitioning to the A-6 Intruder in 1974.

The BBC now has a report on the changes at various positions including Centcom.


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