TAMPA — With the nomination Wednesday of Gen. David Petraeus as the new theater commander in Afghanistan, speculation about his permanent replacement at U.S. Central Command may begin to focus on his deputy.
But Marine Lt. Gen. John Allen's elevation to replace Petraeus at CentCom, which has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, is far from certain. Allen was appointed deputy commander in July 2008 by President George W. Bush. Petraeus' move and his CentCom successor must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Petraeus, however, must leave CentCom to assume his new duties, according to the New York Times. CentCom officials declined to comment.
If history is any indication, Allen will be made interim commander if there is any delay in confirming Petraeus' replacement. When Adm. William Fallon unexpectedly resigned as CentCom commander in March 2008, his deputy, Martin Dempsey, became interim chief until Petraeus' confirmation.
Allen, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was deputy commanding general of the Marine Expeditionary Force and commanding general of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, both based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before his appointment to CentCom. He served in Iraq from 2006 to 2008.
Petraeus' move is certainly unusual, if not unprecedented. Appointment as CentCom chief is often the pinnacle of a general's career, with most commanders retiring and joining the private sector afterward.
Another Marine, Gen. James Mattis, could also be a candidate for CentCom chief. Before Obama tagged Petraeus for Afghanistan, Foreign Policy magazine's Tom Ricks, who wrote a book about Petraeus, speculated that Mattis might get the nod for Afghanistan.