I've heard two different takes on this from former military whose opinions I respect. One thought that this was the act of a dutiful officer who wanted to get out of the way so that Gates could bring in his own men. The other--and the one that I tend to lean towards myself--thought that their retirement at this point was a statement against the White House's refusal to listen to the boots on the ground and push for increasing troops in Iraq. What do you think?
New Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Baghdad today, armed with a mandate from President Bush to help forge a new Iraq war strategy. He made the unannounced trip to the battlefront just two days after taking over at the Pentagon.
[..]The visit comes in advance of a long-expected shuffle in commanders.
Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, has submitted plans to go ahead with a retirement that is months overdue, according to a statement today from the Central Command in Tampa, Fla. His three-year term as chief of the Central Command was to have ended in July but a spokesman said he agreed to stay until "early 2007" at the request of former defense chief Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, has indicated in recent months that he also may not stay much beyond the end of this year.
Gen. Casey has been mentioned as a potential choice for Army chief of staff or to replace Gen. Abizaid at Central Command.
Others who could be affected in a shuffle include:
- Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who led the 101st Airborne Division during the 2003 Iraq invasion and later headed the effort to train Iraqi security forces. He most recently oversaw the rewriting of the Army and Marine field manual for counterinsurgencies.
- Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who last week finished his tour as the No. 2 general in Iraq, as commander of the multinational forces there.
Army Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, also a former division commander in Iraq and now head of the Iraq training effort.