Washington: The Pentagon on Tuesday announced the abrupt resignation of Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, head of the US Central Command, who was overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resignation comes amidst persistent media speculation that he was an internal critic of the Bush administration's policy decisions in Iraq.
The resignation comes on the back of criticism from the supporters of the administration's troop build-up policy who have criticized Adm Fallon for undermining the top US commander in Iraq, Army Gen David H. Petraeus, by recommending an accelerated reduction of US forces in the country.
Gen Petraeus has been responsible for a turn around in the fortunes of the US Army in Iraq through his 'surge' policy, which has seen an increased presence of troops on the ground.
The 'surge' has resulted in driving insurgent forces on the back foot, which in turn, has allowed a beleaguered US administration some breathing space to effect policy changes in Iraq. It has also allowed the administration to notch up a few brownie points against its Democratic Party critics.
The immediate provocation for the resignation appears to be the publication of a controversial article in the prestigious magazine Esquire, which portrays Adm Fallon as being the primary opponent of an administration plan to bomb Iran.
In a statement issued by his headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Adm Fallon insisted that he had no substantive differences with the White House over policies in the Middle East. He said that press reports of "a disconnect between my views and the president's policy objectives" had become a distraction.
"Although I don't believe there have ever been any differences about the objectives of our policy in the Central Command area of responsibility, the simple perception that there is makes it difficult for me to effectively serve America's interests there," Adm Fallon said.
His resignation was announced at the Pentagon by defence secretary, Robert M. Gates, who also insisted Fallon had no significant policy differences with the White House.
According to Washington based observers, policy differences apart, also adding fuel to fire would have been the direct contact between Gen Petraeus and the White House. This may have left Adm Fallon out of the planning process and added to his frustration.
Meanwhile, President Bush praised Adm Fallon, saying he deserves "considerable credit" for progress in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secy Gates said that Army Lt Gen Martin E. Dempsey, the deputy CentCom commander, would take charge temporarily.