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Panetta taps Austin to be new CENTCOM chief

Dec. 6, 2012 - 02:45PM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 6, 2012 - 02:45PM  |  
Army Gen. Lloyd Austin's nomination to succeed Marine Gen. James Mattis was announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Army Gen. Lloyd Austin's nomination to succeed Marine Gen. James Mattis was announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (U.S. Air Force)
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The Army commanding general who helped wind down the Iraq war last year has been tapped to serve as the next chief of U.S. Central Command.

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin's nomination to succeed Marine Gen. James Mattis was announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

"During his final deployment to Iraq, Gen. Austin led our military efforts at a particularly important time, overseeing the drawdown of U.S. forces and equipment while simultaneously helping to ensure that hard-fought security gains were preserved and that Iraqis could secure and govern themselves," Panetta said in a prepared statement.

Austin, currently the Army's vice chief of staff, will have to be confirmed by the Senate before he assumes command. Mattis has not announced his retirement.

Austin, a Georgia native, graduated from West Point in 1975. From 2003 to 2005, he was the commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Afghanistan. He later served as the CENTCOM chief of staff from 2005 through 2006. From 2010 through December 2011, he was commanding general of U.S. Forces-Iraq.

"Lloyd would bring an important combination of strategic thinking, regional knowledge and proven judgment to one of the most critical posts in the department," Panetta said.

Panetta also lauded Mattis's service during the past 3 years.

"I have relied on Jim every day I have served as secretary, and am profoundly grateful for his service to me and to the nation. Americans are safer because one of our nation's great warriors, Jim Mattis, is standing watch over this volatile and important part of the world."

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