The senior U.S. military officer responsible managing the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan, and U.S. military engagement throughout the Middle East, Central
Asia and East Africa, has decided to retire this month after a magazine article
said he opposed administration policy toward Iran. VOA's Al Pessin reports from
The Man Between War and Peace - As head of U. S. Central
Command, Admiral William "Fox" Fallon is in charge of American
military strategy for the most troubled parts of the world. Now, as
the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran, and
seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of
this presidency, the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy. Who
will prevail, the president or the admiral? -Esquire Magazine
Admiral William Fallon informed Defense Secretary Robert Gates Tuesday he wants
to retire because of press reports that, in the admiral's words, are "suggesting
a disconnect" between his views and the president's policy. An article published
in Esquire magazine this week portrays Admiral Fallon, head of U.S.
Central Command, as standing against many people in the Bush administration who,
it says, want to go to war with Iran.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the admiral says
he does not believe there have ever been any differences about policy objectives
in his area of responsibility. But he says the perception of differences makes
it difficult for him to effectively serve U.S. interests in the area.
Announcing Admiral Fallon's departure, Secretary
Gates said he granted the retirement request "with reluctance and regret." He
said there is no policy difference, only the perception of a difference. But in
the end that was enough.
"Part of the problem here, and I think it's
finally manifested in Admiral Fallon's decision that he communicated to me this
morning is that we have tried between us to put this misperception behind us
over a period of months, and frankly just have not been successful in doing so,"
said Robert Gates.
Secretary Gates said the decision was not based
on any one article, but the Esquire profile of the admiral caused some
stir in Washington. It called Fallon "the man between war and peace" and said he
had defied the president by opposing war with Iran. The article, which did not
attribute most of its assertions, also claimed Admiral Fallon might soon be
fired, and that if that happened it could signal a move toward war.
Secretary Gates dismissed that claim.
"The notion that this decision portends anything
in terms of a change in Iran policy is, to quote myself, ridiculous," he said.
Secretary Gates has called Admiral Fallon one of
the best strategic thinkers in the U.S. military, and he said Tuesday the
admiral's departure will leave a "hole' in his team. But Gates said the
admiral's views on Iraq will be reflected in a report his command will submit
later this month as part of an Iraq policy review.
The admiral's retirement takes effect at the end
of the month, and will mark the end of his nearly 42 years of service. He had
been expected to remain at Central Command at least until the end of the year.
In that position, he is one of the top 10 operational commanders in the U.S.
military. He is one of very few officers to hold four four-star commands during
his career, and also one of few remaining in the U.S. military who served in
Secretary Gates said he led with "conviction,
strategic vision, integrity and courage." President Bush said the admiral served
"with great distinction," and gave him credit for what he called recent progress
in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Admiral Fallon will be replaced temporarily by
his deputy, Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey.