U.S. Central Command chief retires

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON - Gen. Tommy Franks, who led U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, retired yesterday, saying that the fight against terrorism has transformed U.S. military operations.

At a change of command ceremony at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Franks, 57, noted that at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan was in the grips of the Taliban regime and Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein.


"What a difference 22 months make," the 36-year Army veteran said.

As head of U.S. Central Command, Franks oversaw military operations in an area stretching from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia.


His replacement is Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, who had been Central Command's deputy commander since January.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Franks was instrumental in transforming the military to respond to the terrorist threat, noting that he coordinated the efforts of different branches of service that in the past simply tried "to stay out of each others' way."

Franks also developed an innovative war plan for Iraq, Rumsfeld said, which was best illustrated by the quick advance of U.S. forces that toppled Hussein's regime in about six weeks.

"Operation Iraqi Freedom was more than successful, it was also transformational," Rumsfeld said at the ceremony. "His service will have lasting impact on the United States armed forces for many decades."

Franks alluded to a phrase used by President Bush last week to describe U.S. readiness to confront insurgents in Iraq.

"Rough road behind, rough road ahead," Franks said. "Bring it on."

Of Abizaid, Rumsfeld said, "I know of no one more qualified to follow in General Franks' very large footsteps."