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Army Gen. Franks Will Retire

The top commander of Afghanistan, Iraq campaigns to step down. Successor is not named.

May 23, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Tommy Franks, the Army general who commanded U.S. forces to battlefield victories in Afghanistan and Iraq, has decided to retire after 36 years in uniform.

Franks, 57, made no announcement, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a brief statement Thursday saying that Franks had informed him "of his desire to step down as the commander of the U.S. Central Command in the weeks immediately ahead" and that Franks plans to retire from the Army this summer.

"He has served our country with great distinction," Rumsfeld said. "I consider myself privileged to have worked so closely with him over these many months."

The White House has not said who will be named to replace him as head of the military command most directly involved in the global war on terrorism. The job requires Senate confirmation.

Franks' senior deputy in the Persian Gulf, Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, is considered a leading candidate for the top job. The command is responsible for American military activities in 25 countries, from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa.

Another candidate is Franks' other deputy, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong.

It had been widely expected within the military that Franks would retire after he decided not to take the Army chief of staff post that will be relinquished June 11 by Gen. Eric Shinseki.

Franks said April 29 that although that job sounded interesting, it was "not on my scope."

His normal two-year term at Central Command was extended last July by Rumsfeld, who worked with Franks on the Afghanistan and Iraq war plans.

Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications at Central Command, said Franks' status will have no effect on the work of U.S. and allied forces to bring stability to postwar Iraq.

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