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Command performance

Gen. John Abizaid, the new leader of the Tampa-based U.S. Central Command, said Monday that the war on terror will not end with back-to-back victories in Afghanistan and Iraq.

During a nationally televised change-of-command ceremony at the St. Pete Times Forum, Abizaid, who replaced Gen. Tommy Franks, said that U.S. forces will take the fight to the enemy.

"We understand that there may be equally tough and arduous campaigns ahead," Abizaid said. "We know that this work is difficult, and we know that this work is dangerous, and we know (U.S. forces) can do it better than anyone else on Earth."

Almost every day, coalition forces have been suffering casualties in Iraq.

But in an interview Monday with Good Morning America, Franks, who will retire with his wife, Cathy, to a home in south Tampa, said no extra troops are needed.

Franks said rising casualties come in pursuit of "a worthy cause," and he agreed with the much-criticized comment by President Bush, who taunted attackers with the phrase "Bring 'em on!"

Franks' comments came as three more Americans died in Iraq. A bomb attack on a military convoy in Baghdad early Monday killed one; gunmen killed two others in attacks hours earlier.

The somewhat somber 50-minute change-of-command ceremony featured red-white-and-blue banners, an Army band, and speeches by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Franks and Abizaid. Earlier the 52-year-old Abizaid (pronounced AB-ih-zayd) was promoted to four-star general.

The ceremony attracted about 1,000 people, including military personnel and invited guests, such as Mayor Pam Iorio, Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, the singers Wayne Newton and Neal McCoy, and the actor Robert De Niro.

In his remarks, Rumsfeld praised Franks as the right person to lead America into war in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

"When war comes, you look for certain special qualities," Rumsfeld said. "Gen. Franks embodies those qualities: experience, a keen mind, energy, humor and a deep loyalty to his troops, to his country. Tom Franks is truly a soldier's soldier."

He said that unlike the past, when the services tried to stay out of each other's way during war, what Iraq showed under Franks was the ability for U.S. armed forces to fight jointly, as a team.

As a result, Rumsfeld said, U.S. forces will train differently and fight wars differently.

"Gen. Franks may be leaving the service," Rumsfeld said, "but his service will have lasting impact on the U.S. armed forces for many decades."

Turning to Abizaid, Rumsfeld said he knew of "no one more qualified to follow in Tom Franks' very large footsteps."

Abizaid, who is of Lebanese descent and speaks Arabic, holds a master's degree in Middle East Studies from Harvard University. Before serving as a deputy commander at CentCom under Franks, Abizaid held top positions at the Pentagon and served in Grenada and during the Persian Gulf War.

"He is a leader of the 21st century," Rumsfeld said.

Franks and Abizaid, both Army men, received standing ovations.

Franks, 58, quipped that he was finally keeping his vow to his wife to retire from the Army, a vow he made to her 34 years ago. He presented her with a bouquet of roses.

"I am honored to stand by John Abizaid," Franks said. "John brings the right stuff to this work, to this magnificent organization."

In typical Franks fashion, he could not resist a quick joke.

"Today is a very stressful time for me," Franks said. "When I woke up this morning I had a Boeing business jet, several aides, several sedans, and now I'm worried how the h--- I'm going to get home."

Franks noted that when he took command at CentCom, based at MacDill Air Force Base, the Taliban and al-Qaida were in control in Afghanistan, and Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq.

"What a difference 22 months makes," Franks said, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

"As President Bush said recently, "Bring it on!' That's been the attitude of this command, of this country, of members of this coalition for some 22 months and we'll still say it.

"Rough road behind. Rough road ahead. Bring it on!"

He ended his speech by bringing McCoy, a country music singer, onto the stage to sing I'm Your Biggest Fan.

In his speech, Abizaid said that working as Franks' deputy was the highlight of his professional life.

"The greatest honor for any soldier is to command the sons and daughters of America, (particularly) in time of war," Abizaid said. "CentCom will continue to take the fight to the enemy on his ground. We will defeat these terrorists who kill our innocents. We will defeat these murderers."

Sgt. 1st Class Louie Castillo, the service member of the year at CentCom in charge of intelligence collection, described the ceremony as "extremely precious."

"Gen. Abizaid coming in," Castillo said, "everyone sees him coming in, you know, as the next level, the next leg in this race that we're running."

Although Franks relinquished his post, he probably will not retire until August, according to CentCom officials. He is scheduled to brief Congress this week and will probably take vacation.

He plans to write a book and hit the lecture circuit. Already CentCom and the Frankses have been deluged with calls from companies wanting to sign up Franks to speak and from literary agents.

After the ceremony, Mrs. Franks, holding her roses, stood near her husband as he signed autographs and took his picture with admirers.

"We both feel ecstatic, we are blessed," she said. "It's very emotional."

As for her husband, Mrs. Franks said: "He's amazing, but he always is. He's doing great. He's focused. He knows what he's doing.

"But," she added, "we're both looking forward to our future here in the Tampa Bay community. We are going to stay right here with the people we have come to love."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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