Senate confirms Abizaid for U.S. Central Command

Saturday, June 28, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Friday confirmed Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid to replace Gen. Tommy Franks as head of U.S. Central Command, a position that includes responsibility for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Abizaid (pronounced AB'-ih-zayd) is now one of two deputy commanders of Central Command, which oversees military operations from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia. He was confirmed by voice vote and will be promoted to the rank of general.

Franks is scheduled to hand over the command to Abizaid at a ceremony July 7 at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla.

Senators praised Abizaid during a confirmation hearing Wednesday for his extensive military background and expertise in the Middle East. He is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, fluent in Arabic, and holds a master's degree in Middle East studies from Harvard.

They also praised his bluntness.

At the hearing, Abizaid said he was perplexed by the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He also said a large number of U.S. soldiers will be needed in Iraq "for the foreseeable future."

Franks announced last month that he would retire this summer.

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