The brilliant and unorthodox decision to appoint General Petraeus to direct operations in Afghanistan leaves a hole at the top of Central Command. There are two obvious choices: Ray Odierno or Jim Mattis. Either one would be superb. Odierno is better known for his role in Iraq, where he was co-architect with Petraeus of the “surge.” More recently, he has been the top man in Iraq overseeing the perilous draw down of American forces. He is scheduled to leave Iraq at the end of the summer and take over Joint Forces Command. In that capacity he would succeed Mattis, a combat Marine who has led troops successfully in both Afghanistan and Iraq and who has later co-written the Army-Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual with Petraeus. Mattis, like Odierno, knows counterinsurgency and knows the Middle East — and he will be headed for retirement to an apple orchard in Walla Walla, Washington, unless he gets another military job. Filling Petraeus’s boots at Centcom is a tall order, but either Mattis or Odierno would be a great bet for the job.
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