The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, established in 1983 under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. It was originally conceived of as the Rapid Deployment Forces.
Its area of responsibility is in the Middle East, including Egypt, and Central Asia. CENTCOM has been the main American presence in many military operations, including the Gulf War, the United States war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Forces from CENTCOM currently are deployed primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat roles and have bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, and central Asia in support roles. CENTCOM forces have also been deployed in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in the past, although no substantial forces are based in those countries as of 2005.
CENTCOM's former commander was Admiral William Fallon, who took command on March 16, 2007, replacing General John Abizaid. Admiral Fallon resigned on March 11, 2008 after a controversial article that appeared in Esquire Magazine suggested that he was a lone voice opposing military action against the Nuclear program of Iran. On April 23, 2008, General David Petraeus was chosen by President Bush to succeed Fallon as CENTCOM chief. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 10, 2008 and will take command on October 31, 2008.
Of the six American regional unified commands, CENTCOM is one of three regional unified commands whose headquarters are not within its area of operations. It is at MacDill AFB, in Tampa, Florida, although a forward headquarters has been established at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar to serve American strategic interests of the Iraq region. (The other such regional unified command is U.S. Southern Command, currently based in Miami, Florida.)
There are major subordinate multiservice commands reporting to Central Command which are conducting operations in various areas:
(see also Iraq War order of battle)
CENTCOM staff sections include personnel, operations, logistics, and intelligence, as well as other functions. The intelligence section is known as JICCENT, or Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command, which serves as a Joint Intelligence Center for the co-ordination of intelligence.
The formal Area of Responsibility (AOR) extends to 20 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, and Yemen. International waters included are the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and western portions of the Indian Ocean. Syria and Lebanon are the most recent addition, having been transferred from the United States European Command on March 10, 2004.
Israel, which is now surrounded by CENTCOM countries remains in EUCOM, "because it is more politically, militarily and culturally aligned with Europe," according to American military officials. General Norman Schwarzkopf expressed the position over Israel more frankly in his 1992 autobiography: 'European Command also kept Israel, which from my viewpoint was a help: I'd have had difficulty impressing the Arabs with Central Command's grasp of geopolitical nuance if one of the stops on my itinerary had been Tel Aviv.'
On February 7, 2007, plans were announced for the creation of a United States Africa Command which would transfer responsibility for all of Africa except the country of Egypt to the new USAFRICOM.
Major US troop presence in the region dates to the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Operation Desert Shield, which transferred hundreds of thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia. Islamists objected to the presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia, and their use in Operation Desert Storm and other attacks on Iraq became a key rallying cry for opposition movements in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. By the late 1990s, a gradual move to other countries was underway, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE.
The military uses a variable number of base locations depending on its level of operations. With warfare ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, the United States Air Force used 36 bases, while in 2006 it uses 14 today, including four in Iraq.
There are already six US weapons pre-positioning sites in Israel, three of which are designated Sites 51, 53, and 54.
|GEN Robert C. Kingston||United States Army||January 1, 1983||November 27, 1985|
|GEN George B. Crist||United States Marine Corps||November 27, 1985||November 23, 1988|
|GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf||United States Army||November 23, 1988||August 9, 1991|
|GEN Joseph P. Hoar||United States Marine Corps||August 9, 1991||August 5, 1994|
|GEN J. H. Binford Peay III||United States Army||August 5, 1994||August 13, 1997|
|GEN Anthony C. Zinni||United States Marine Corps||August 13, 1997||July 6, 2000|
|GEN Tommy R. Franks||United States Army||July 6, 2000||July 7, 2003|
|GEN John P. Abizaid||United States Army||July 7, 2003||March 16, 2007|
|ADM William J. Fallon||United States Navy||March 16, 2007||March 28, 2008|
|LTG Martin Dempsey (acting)||United States Army||March 28, 2008||October 31, 2008 (announced)|
|GEN David H. Petraeus||United States Army||October 31, 2008 (announced)|