Obama taps new general to oversee Afghan pullout
Washington: For the crucial Afghan pullout in 2014, US President Barack Obama has tapped a general who oversaw the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Obama intends to nominate General Lloyd Austin as the next commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), whose jurisdiction extends over the Af-Pak region.
Austin, who currently serves as vice chief of staff of the Army, would replace General James Mattis, after his nomination is confirmed by the US Senate.
Making the announcement, the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta described Austin as one of the military's most seasoned combat leaders - with extensive experience in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
"Gen Austin led the 3rd Infantry Division from the front in the opening months of the Iraq war, earning a Silver Star for valour. He later commanded the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan, led Multi-National Corps-Iraq from February 2008 until April 2009, and then commanded US Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through the completion of the mission in December 2011," Panetta said.
Lloyd would bring an important combination of strategic thinking, regional knowledge and proven judgement to one of the most critical posts in the department, the Defence Secretary said.
Appreciating the leadership shown by Gen Mattis, Panetta said he will go down as one of the most celebrated battlefield leaders and strategic military thinkers of the time.
"I am grateful that we have found another warrior and patriot, Lloyd Austin, to carry his legacy forward and to command thousands of troops who are willing to fight and to die to defend our nation," he added.