Wednesday, March 12, 2008

US top Iraq and Afghanistan commander quits, reportedly over policy disagreements

From The Times
March 12, 2008
Tim Reid in Washington
The top US military commander for Iraq and Afghanistan resigned last night after weeks of behind-the-scenes disagreements with the White House over the direction of American foreign policy.
Admiral William Fallon, the head of US Central Command, left his post a week after a profile in Esquire magazine portrayed him as a dove opposed to President's Bush's Iran policy.
The article, entitled The Man Between War and Peace, described Admiral Fallon as as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear programme.
Announcing the resignation, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, dismissed as "ridiculous" any notion that the departure signalled that the US was planning to go to war with Iran. He said there was a "misperception" that Admiral Fallon disagreed with the Bush Administration's approach to Iran. "I don't think there were any differences at all," Mr Gates insisted.
Pentagon insiders said that Admiral Fallon's departure was more the result of a turf battle between him and General David Petraeus, the US ground commander in Iraq. Admiral Fallon was General Petraeus's commanding officer but for months Mr Bush has deferred to General Petraeus, against the objections of Admiral Fallon, who is believed to have been advocating a speedier withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Admiral Fallon is also understood to have been pressing for a greater allocation of troops to Afghanistan, but has been frustrated at the reluctance of the Administration — and General Petraeus — to withdraw significant numbers from Iraq in the short term.
In a resignation statement from Admiral Fallon read out by Mr Gates, he said: "Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the President's policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time and hamper efforts in the Centcom region."
Admiral Fallon added: "And although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there."
Mr Gates said that he had reluctantly agreed to the resignation but that it was "the right thing to do". Admiral Fallon, the first naval officer to head Central Command, took up the post in March 2007, succeeding General John Abizaid.
Until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, Admiral Fallon's deputy, Lieutenant-General Martin Dempsey, of the US Army, would take over Centcom.

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