Businesshala News Exclusive | White House Nominates Airborne Officer to Lead Central Command

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Army Lieutenant General Michael Eric Kurilla will replace General Frank McKenzie and oversee operations in the Middle East

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General Kurilla, the former chief of staff of Central Command who is now commander of the 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, NC, will assume the role as concerns grow that the Afghanistan branch of al Qaeda and Islamic State could re-emerge. threat to American interests. Other issues within the purview of Central Command include Tehran’s nuclear program and influence in the region and the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

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General McKenzie has been seen as an effective advocate for maintaining military forces and capabilities in the Central Command area, but the administration has directed him to transfer missile defense hardware, fighter jet squadrons and other material and forces as The administration focuses its attention on this. Indo-Pacific region.

“While Lieutenant General Kurilla is honored by nomination to serve as commander of US Central Command, he is not assuming confirmation and is focused only on his current responsibilities in command of the XVIII Airborne Corps,” said Colonel Joe Buccino. Kurilla, a spokesman for the general, said in a statement.

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Born in California and raised in Elk River, Minn., General Kurilla is a graduate of the US Military Academy and served in the Gulf War. From 2004 to 2014, General Kurilla served in the Central Command, according to his biography, As a battalion commander in Mosul, Iraq, he was shot several times by insurgents between 2004 and 2005.

The US military has said it plans to move toward threats from China and Russia, and General Kurilla will be the first general to command the region since the Biden administration withdrew the last US troops from Afghanistan in August, There the 20 Years’ War was ended. ,

Last month, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman and its auxiliary ships to remain near the Ionian Sea instead of going on a planned mission to the Middle East. The US military often has a carrier in the Middle East to demonstrate its naval influence.

Defense officials said the US has withdrawn less than 40,000 ground forces in the region outside Afghanistan, less than half its peak two years ago, and redeployed several Patriot missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia. has done. Meanwhile, the US has withdrawn military resources and personnel from Iraq, increasing the number of advisers.

Within the Middle East, General Kurilla must grapple with growing Chinese and Russian influence among America’s partners. China is looking to build a military facility at a port in the United Arab Emirates, while countries such as Egypt are looking to Russia for military and economic aid. Gulf allies including Qatar and Saudi Arabia will also look to General Kurilla to maintain their alliance with the US

The effects of the chaotic American withdrawal from Afghanistan in the summer also resonate. The Afghanistan branch of Islamic State has successfully launched terrorist attacks in that country as recently as December 25. And the Taliban’s takeover of the country has resulted in an economic collapse that has led to food shortages and threatens regional security.

Officials said the biggest focus in the region is Iran. Talks between the US and its allies with Tehran over its nuclear program have stalled, and Iranian-aligned paramilitary groups continue to launch attacks in Iraq and Syria. Iran-backed groups have intensified their attacks against Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Retired Army General Joseph Votel, who had worked with General Kurilla when he headed the Central Command, said that Gen Kurilla was one of the best leaders in the army because he was afraid to try new things. In his current post, General Kurilla studies the applicability of artificial intelligence and machine learning to war fighting, General Votel said.

Adapting to a changing region with fewer military resources would make General Kurilla’s job more finicky than his predecessors, he said.

“I think the work will be about using the technology we have available to protect our interests. It will be about supporting our diplomats. It will be about working in the gray sphere of influence and making the United States the preferred partner.” As will about the promotion,” said General Votel.

Write Gordon Lubold at [email protected] and Nancy A. Joseph at [email protected]

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