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Abizaid Set to Supplant Franks As CENTCOM Commander

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2003 – Army Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid is set to receive his fourth star and to take over U.S. Central Command from outgoing commander Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks at ceremonies in Tampa, Fla., July 7.

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Bush's nomination of Abizaid June 27. During his confirmation hearing testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee June 25, Abizaid noted that U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq "don't need to hunker down in base camps and try to avoid contact" with remnant followers of the deposed Saddam Hussein regime.

"The best protection that we can give our soldiers is an offensive spirit in a tough place," he told Senate committee members, adding, "We need to seek out contact. We need to be aggressive, and that's what we're doing in Iraq."

He also commented on efforts to root out the former regime's die-hards. "The best way to deal with the Baathist resurgence and activity there is to take the battle to them, be offensive, dismantle the cells, kill those who would try to kill us and be very aggressive," Abizaid pointed out to members of the Senate committee.

Abizaid, of Lebanese extraction and fluent in Arabic, has been CENTCOM deputy commander (forward) for Combined Forces Command since January 2003. Before that, he was director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. Previously, he commanded the 1st Infantry Division, Wurzburg, Germany.

Franks, the military architect of U.S.-coalition campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, is slated to retire Aug. 1. He took command of CENTCOM from Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni July 6, 2000. Prior to that, he had commanded the 3rd U.S. Army/Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta.

Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, CENTCOM, established on Jan. 1, 1983, is one of nine unified combatant commands assigned operational control of U.S. combat forces.

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