11 Jul 2008

Petraeus appointed head of Middle East command

3:31 pm on 11 July 2008

The United States Senate has approved the appointment of General David Petraeus as head of US Central Command.

When he takes up the post in September he will have responsibility for US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as dealing with Iran and Pakistan.

As the American general currently in charge of Iraq, he has been credited with helping restore security to some parts of the country. He takes over from Admiral William Fallon, who stood down in March.

The resignation followed reports that Admiral Fallon opposed the White House policy towards Iran.

In April, the administration recommended that he should be succeeded by General Petraeus. The nomination needed approval by the Senate.

The BBC reports General Petraeus is a safe and trusted pair of hands for an administration trying to cope with new tensions across the Middle East.

Rising violence in Afghanistan is of major concern to the US Congress and lawmakers want that to be a top priority for the commander.

The 55-year-old has overseen since last year the "surge" of an additional 30,000 US troops in Iraq, which has been credited widely with improving security and helping reduce violence.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said the general would not leave Iraq immediately, in order to ensure he had enough time for a proper handover.

General Petraeus will be replaced in Iraq by Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno, whose appointment was also overwhelmingly approved by the Senate.