Petraeus Picked to Lead Mideast Command

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Gen. David Petraeus will be nominated to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

Petraeus is the four-star Army general who has led coalition troops in Iraq for the past year. He is expected to make the shift in late summer or early fall.

The Pentagon chief also said that Bush will tap Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno to replace Petraus in Baghdad.

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The U.S. Central Command is based in Tampa, Fla. The center is responsible for all U.S. military operations throughout the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa.

"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.

"No One More Qualified"

At the Pentagon, Gates said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other problems, demand knowledge of how to fight counter-insurgencies 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.

Petraeus, 55, is recognized by the Bush administration and members of Congress for implementing a new strategy in Iraq that dramatically improved security. For the plan to work, some 30,000 additional troops were sent to the Iraqi republic.

When asked if moving the general from Iraq could interrupt the present momentum, Gates said they they would wait 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.

His current assignment is commander of the Army's 3rd Corps based at Fort Hood, Texas. He finished a 15-month tour two months ago as Petraeus's top deputy.

If the Senate confirms Petraeus, he will replace Navy Adm. William Fallon. Fallon abruptly resigned in March after a magazine reported that he was at odds with Bush over Iran policy. Fallon said the report, while not true, had become a distraction.

Faces No Obstacles on the Hill

Gates said he had consulted with senior lawmakers about the nominations, and anticipated no Capitol Hill obstacles to confirmation.

He said he expects Petraeus will make an initial recommendation in late summer on when to resume pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Source: The Associated Press

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