John P. Abizaid

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Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid will be departing as Commander of U.S. Central Command, "part of a broad revamping of the military team that will carry out the administration’s new Iraq strategy," Bush administration officials said January 4, 2007. Abizaid's departure was expected. It is anticipated he will be replaced by Admiral William J. Fallon, "who is the top American military officer in the Pacific, officials said." [1]

"The changes are being made as the White House is considering an option to increase American combat power in Baghdad by five brigades as well as adding two battalions of reinforcements to the volatile province of Anbar in western Iraq," the Bush administration said. [2]

However, both Abizaid and Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., who is also being replaced, "have voiced scepticism about an increase in troop numbers, instead wanting to focus on training Iraqi forces." [3]


"John Abizaid is a different kind of general. He is often cited as the highest-ranking Arab-American in U.S. history. But he is also the leading edge of a new generation. While both Tommy R. Franks and Jay Garner were blooded as young officers in Vietnam, Abizaid, 51, graduated from West Point in 1973, just as the U.S. withdrew from that war. He learned his trade, instead, in brushfires around the world: in Lebanon, Grenada, and Bosnia, and in northern Iraq in 1991, where he worked for Garner. A TV-savvy briefer whose Grenada exploits using a hotwired bulldozer under fire were fictionalized in a 1986 Clint Eastwood movie called Heartbreak Ridge, Abizaid has been the subject of countless flattering newspaper profiles -- the kind of attention that can derail a career in the fervently self-effacing Army. But if he has enemies, they're keeping quiet. Said retired Army Col. Robert Killebrew, 'he is one of the very few emerging Army personalities about whom one only hears good things.'

"Yet Abizaid has hardly shunned risks. As a young officer, he left the elite Rangers to take a military scholarship at the University of Jordan. During his officially academic tour in Amman, Abizaid strayed off campus to train with Jordanian commandos and travel in the Middle East, including then-obscure Iraq, where Saddam Hussein was rising to power. Said Killebrew, 'Abizaid bucked the usual assignment ladder and became an Arabic specialist at a time when that wasn't always a good career move, purely because he intellectually believed the Army would need Arabic specialists. Well, he was right.'

"Abizaid's investment paid off in 1985, when he joined the United Nations monitoring mission in his ancestral Lebanon. 'He had a tremendous reputation,' recalled another Lebanon peacekeeper, retired Marine Col. Gary Anderson, and 'got along well with Palestinians, Lebanese, and Israelis.' Abizaid brought the same diplomacy to northern Iraq in 1991, when he peacefully eased Iraqi regulars out of Kurdish areas, once by bombarding them with loud rock music. He returned to the region this January when he was named one of two deputies to Franks, who -- managing 24 other countries in his theater of operations -- is likely to delegate day-to-day work on postwar Iraq to Abizaid.

"Mideast specialist though he is, Abizaid is also at home in the Pentagon. His last assignment before Central Command was as director of the Joint Staff, an obscure but powerful back-office position charged with coordinating the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. In a letter leaked last fall, Abizaid blasted bureaucrats for evading 'the fundamental issue that the Department of Defense is not effectively structured to effect the organizing, training, and equipping of joint forces' -- impolitic words for the Pentagon, but music to the ears of Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has also been known to rail against service rivalries."

Source: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., Corine Hegland and John Maggs, "A Postwar Who's Who," National Journal, March 28, 2003.

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  • Blue Hackle Limited Board, organizational web page, accessed February 23, 2015 .