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United States Central Command
Emblem of the United States Central Command.
Active 1983-present
Country United States
Type Unified Combatant Command
Headquarters MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida
Nickname CENTCOM
Engagements Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
Persian Gulf War
Combatant Commander General David H. Petraeus, USA
Deputy Commander Lieutenant General John R. Allen, USMC
Admiral William Fallon
General John Abizaid
General Tommy Franks
General Anthony Zinni
General Norman Schwarzkopf

The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command unit of the U.S. armed forces, established in 1983 under the operational control of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. It was originally conceived of as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF).

Its area of responsibility is in the Middle East, including Egypt, and Central Asia. CENTCOM has been the main American presence in many military operations, including the Gulf War, the United States war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Forces from CENTCOM currently are deployed primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat roles and have bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, and central Asia in support roles. CENTCOM forces have also been deployed in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in the past, although no substantial forces are based in those countries as of 2009.

On April 23, 2008, General David Petraeus was chosen by President George W. Bush to become the CENTCOM commander.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 10, 2008[2] and assumed command on October 31, 2008.[3]

Of the six American regional unified commands, CENTCOM is one of three regional unified commands whose headquarters are not within its area of operations. CENTCOM's main headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, although a forward headquarters has also been established since 2002 at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar to serve American strategic interests of the Iraq region. The other regional unified commands with headquarters located outside their areas of operations are United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), currently based in Miami, Florida, and United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), currently based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Exercise Internal Look is one of the Command's primary planning events. Up until around 1990, it was annual, but it is now held every two years. Up until 1990 it was frequently used to train CENTCOM to be ready to defending the Zagros Mountains from a Soviet attack.[4] It has been employed for explicit war planning on at least two occasions: Internal Look '90, which was held after General Norman Schwarzkopf reoriented CENTCOM's planning to fending off a threat from Iraq, and Internal Look '03, which was used to plan what became Operation Iraqi Freedom.



No fighting units are directly subordinate to this command; rather, the five subordinate service component commands are:

There are major subordinate multiservice commands reporting to Central Command which are conducting operations in various areas:

On October 1, 2008 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa at Camp Le Monier in Djibouti was transferred to AFRICOM. During the Israeli incursion into Lebanon of 2006 a temporary task force, Joint Task Force Lebanon was also operational.

CENTCOM staff sections include personnel, operations, logistics, and intelligence, as well as other functions. The intelligence section is known as JICCENT, or Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command, which serves as a Joint Intelligence Center for the co-ordination of intelligence. Under the intelligence directorate, there are several divisions including the Afghanistan Pakistan Intelligence Center of Excellence.

There are also elements of other Unified Combatant Commands, especially United States Special Operations Command, operating in the CENTCOM area. It appears that SOCCENT does not direct the secretive Task Force 77, the ad-hoc grouping of Joint Special Operations Command 'black' units such as Delta Force, supported by Special Operations light infantry, mostly United States Army Rangers, which is tasked to pursue the most sensitive high value targets such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership since September 11, 2001. Rather TF 77, which started out as Task Force 11 and has gone through a number of name/number changes, reports directly to Joint Special Operations Command, part of USSOCOM.

Geographic scope

United States Central Command Area of Responsibility prior to the creation of the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM).

The formal Area of Responsibility (AOR) extends to 20 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, and Yemen. International waters included are the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and western portions of the Indian Ocean.[5] Syria and Lebanon are the most recent addition, having been transferred from the United States European Command on 10 March 2004.

Israel, which is now surrounded by CENTCOM countries remains in EUCOM, "because it is more politically, militarily and culturally aligned with Europe," according to American military officials.[6] General Norman Schwarzkopf expressed the position over Israel more frankly in his 1992 autobiography: 'European Command also kept Israel, which from my viewpoint was a help: I'd have had difficulty impressing the Arabs with Central Command's grasp of geopolitical nuance if one of the stops on my itinerary had been Tel Aviv.'[7]

On February 7, 2007, plans were announced for the creation of a United States Africa Command which would transfer responsibility for all of Africa except the country of Egypt to the new USAFRICOM. On October 1, 2008, the Africa Command became operational and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the primary CENTCOM force on the continent, started reporting to AFRICOM at Stuttgart instead of CENTCOM in Tampa.

Major US troop presence in the region dates to the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Operation Desert Shield, which transferred hundreds of thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia. Islamists objected to the presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia, and their use in Operation Desert Storm and other attacks on Iraq became a key rallying cry for opposition movements in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. By the late 1990s, a gradual move to other countries was underway, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE.

The military uses a variable number of base locations depending on its level of operations. With warfare ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, the United States Air Force used 35 bases, while in 2006 it uses 14 today, including four in Iraq.

List of CENTCOM commanders

No. Name Service Start End
1 GEN Robert C. Kingston United States Army January 1, 1983 November 27, 1985
2 Gen George B. Crist United States Marine Corps November 27, 1985 November 23, 1988
3 GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf United States Army November 23, 1988 August 9, 1991
4 Gen Joseph P. Hoar United States Marine Corps August 9, 1991 August 5, 1994
5 GEN J. H. Binford Peay III United States Army August 5, 1994 August 13, 1997
6 Gen Anthony C. Zinni United States Marine Corps August 13, 1997 July 6, 2000
7 GEN Tommy Franks United States Army July 6, 2000 July 7, 2003
8 GEN John P. Abizaid United States Army July 7, 2003 March 16, 2007
9 ADM William J. Fallon United States Navy March 16, 2007 March 28, 2008
(Acting) LTG Martin Dempsey United States Army March 28, 2008 October 31, 2008
10 GEN David Petraeus United States Army October 31, 2008


  1. ^ Petraeus picked to lead Central Command -
  2. ^ - Senate confirms Petraeus for new role
  3. ^ Department of Defense: Gates Notes Shift in Mission as Iraq Command Changes Hands
  4. ^ Norman Schwarzkopf, It Doesn't Take A Hero, Bantam Books paperback edition, 1993, p.331-2, 335-6. ISBN 0-553-56338-6. Harold Coyle's novel Sword Point gives a impression of what such planning envisaged, by a U.S. Army officer who would have had some idea of the general planning approach.
  5. ^, Central Command
  6. ^ Department of Defense: Unified Command
  7. ^ Schwarzkopf, It Doesn't Take A Hero, Bantam Books paperback edition, 1993, p.318

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