USA — Senate Considers Mattis to Head Central Command

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2010 — Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mat­tis called for har­mo­ny and con­sis­ten­cy in the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand area of oper­a­tion today, cit­ing the need for con­tin­ued mil­i­tary, civil­ian and region­al coop­er­a­tion to suc­cess­ful­ly dri­ve out extrem­ism.

Mat­tis, who serves as both the NATO supreme allied com­man­der for trans­for­ma­tion and com­man­der of U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand in Nor­folk, Va., appeared before the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. He is being con­sid­ered for re-appoint­ment to the rank of gen­er­al and to head Cent­com.

“The wars we are fight­ing require high­ly inte­grat­ed mil­i­tary efforts from the high­est to the low­est lev­els,” Mat­tis said in his open­ing remarks. “If con­firmed, I will make every effort to work close­ly with civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers charged with lead­ing our oper­a­tions, and to ensure they are ful­ly resourced in a coher­ent and com­pre­hen­sive man­ner.”

Al-Qai­da and oth­er extrem­ist groups pose a threat that spans the entire Cent­com region and beyond, the gen­er­al said. Com­bat­ing that threat requires con­stant pres­sure by coali­tion part­ners, he added.

“Con­sis­ten­cy in our approach and har­mo­ny in our rela­tion­ships are fun­da­men­tal to achieve uni­ty of efforts in a region vital to our nation­al inter­est and those of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” he con­tin­ued.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma nom­i­nat­ed Mat­tis to suc­ceed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, whom the com­mit­tee con­firmed June 30 to com­mand U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Cent­com over­sees all U.S. mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in the Mid­dle East and Cen­tral Asia, includ­ing Iraq and Afghanistan.

Man­ag­ing efforts in Afghanistan will be among Mat­tis’ top pri­or­i­ties if con­firmed, he said.

“The stakes there are high,” the gen­er­al said. “The mil­i­tary com­po­nent in our strat­e­gy in Afghanistan is sound, and requires firm exe­cu­tion. I sup­port it ful­ly.

“I believe that by stead­fast­ly exe­cut­ing our strat­e­gy, we will win in Afghanistan,” he con­tin­ued. “Noth­ing about the mis­sion will be easy. We rec­og­nize that achiev­ing our goals in Afghanistan requires also the endur­ing com­mit­ment of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.”

Com­bat­ing extrem­ists in Afghanistan can’t be done with­out a strong part­ner­ship with Pak­istan, the gen­er­al said. Pak­istan, he sug­gest­ed, has lit­tle option but to part­ner with the Unit­ed States’ efforts because of the sac­ri­fices inno­cent Pak­ista­nis have suf­fered at the hands of ter­ror­ists.

“Inex­tri­ca­bly linked to our cam­paign in Afghanistan is our strate­gic part­ner­ship with Pak­istan,” he explained. “Prox­im­i­ty to an area with affil­i­at­ed ter­ror­ists groups has dealt the peo­ple of Pak­istan a tough hand geo­graph­i­cal­ly. Pak­istan con­tin­ues to endure great sac­ri­fices in their effort to counter extrem­ism, and I am heart­ened by their efforts.”

Anoth­er of Mat­tis’ top pri­or­i­ties would be con­tin­u­ing the respon­si­ble draw­down of forces in Iraq, he said. More than 128,000 U.S. troops were deployed there last year. The U.S. foot­print has decreased to 77,000 today and is on track to reduce to 50,000 by Sept. 1. All U.S. forces must be out of Iraq by Decem­ber 2011.

Iran, how­ev­er, pos­es the great­est long-term chal­lenge in the region, Mat­tis said, not­ing the Islam­ic state’s nuclear ambi­tions.

“[Iran] con­tin­ues to threat­en region­al and glob­al sta­bil­i­ty by pur­su­ing a nuclear weapons pro­gram and by fund­ing and arm­ing mil­i­tant prox­ies through­out the region,” he said. “The task of Cen­tral Com­mand will be to counter the Iran­ian regime’s desta­bi­liz­ing activ­i­ties, to deter the regime from aggres­sion, and to work in con­cert with our part­ners in the region to advance our shared secu­ri­ty inter­ests.”

Despite the daunt­ing task of address­ing these chal­lenges, Mat­tis said, Cent­com offers an oppor­tu­ni­ty to enhance region­al part­ner­ships. If con­firmed, he said, he looks for­ward to work­ing with respon­si­ble and mod­er­ate groups, as well as tak­ing the fight to their ene­mies.

“Our ene­mies’ bar­bar­ic, medieval actions offer oppor­tu­ni­ties to counter their extrem­ist ide­ol­o­gy,” he said. “Those who delib­er­ate­ly kill inno­cents know their polit­i­cal­ly bank­rupt meth­ods can­not win.

“We and our coali­tion and region­al part­ners, by con­trast, are involved in the noble cause of help­ing to real­ize a brighter future in the region and inter­na­tion­al­ly,” he added.

Mat­tis com­mand­ed Marines in com­bat dur­ing the first Gulf War. He also led Marines in the ear­ly days of the Afghanistan cam­paign, as well as dur­ing Iraq deploy­ments. If con­firmed, he plans to lever­age his 38 years of ser­vice and 30 years of expe­ri­ence in the region “to eth­i­cal­ly car­ry out Cen­tral Command’s mis­sion,” he said.

“Hav­ing been nom­i­nat­ed for this posi­tion, I am extreme­ly mind­ful of the extra­or­di­nary priv­i­lege it’s been to serve for over 38 years, along­side America’s finest young men and women,” he said. “I will hold our sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines fore­most in my thoughts.

“I will also pro­vide my best pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary assess­ment to this com­mit­tee and to our nation­al secu­ri­ty lead­er­ship,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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