Central Command, United States: CENTCOM

The US Central Command took over from the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force on the 1 January 1983 based at MacDill Airforce Base in Florida and its area of responsibility included Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia as well as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, People's Republic of Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen Arab Republic, to which Jordan, the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf were added. The first few years were characterised by hard work to form a properly unified command and both General Robert Kingston (US Army) and General George Crist (USMC) had to overcome initial scepticism from the US European Command, the distrust of agencies that had vested interests in the region such as the Department of Defense and State Department and the distrust, if not outright hostility from the states in the area which viewed the new command as a vehicle for US intervention. The new command was tested by the intensification of the Iran-Iraq War (with incidents such as the missile strike on the USS Stark and the shooting down of an Iranian airliner by the USS Vincennes) and conducted operations such as Early Call, Arid farmer and Eagle Look. CENTCOM also kept the exercise programme with Bright Star, Gallant Eagle and Gallant Knight and the Internal Look command post exercises. As the 1980s continued, the effects of Glasnost and Peristoika led to the improvement in relations between the west and the Soviet Union. With a reduced possibility of a massive invasion of Iran, the new CINCENT (Commander-in-Chief Central Command) General Norman Schwarzkopf started to work on alternate scenarios that involved the aggression by a major regional power against its neighbours and to expand military and diplomatic relations with the states in the region.

Just as the 1990 Internal Look command post exercise that tested this new scenario was coming to an end (where intelligence concerning Iraqi air and ground force movements had eerily paralleled the scenario) Iraq invaded Kuwait. CENTCOM reacted swiftly and started deploying forces to Saudi Arabia to deter the Iraqis from continuing their aggression in Operation Desert Shield. Forces from the United States (82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault, 24th Mechanised and 1st Cavalry divisions as well as the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force), Europe (elements of VII Corps) as well as coalition forces (from Britain, France, Egypt and Syria to name but a few) made their way to Saudi Arabia and thoughts turned to liberating Kuwait. On 17 January the Coalition started Operation Desert Storm with a massive aerial bombardment that was to last five weeks. On 24 February 1991 the ground offensive began and in 100 hours the allies had liberated Kuwait with minimum loss of life. Even after Desert Storm, CENTCOM remained in charge of Operations Southern Watch and Provide Comfort which were to enforce UN sanctions on Iraq and was part of the international response to Iraqi non-compliance with Security Council Resolution 688 which condemned Saddam Hussein's repression of Iraqi civilians. In August 1992 CENTCOM oversaw Operation Provide Relief which was the airlift of aid to the starving people of Somalia, a country that had no central government and which was racked by civil war.

Unfortunately airlift by itself was not enough and in December 1992 Operation Restore Hope was begun in support of Security Council Resolution 794. CENTCOM led the United Task Force (UNITAF) to ensure security of transportation and distribution routes, relief convoys and the relief operations themselves. During 1993 UNITAF established the basic infrastructure to distribute the relief supplies and medical care and the UN finally took over (UNOSOM II). But tension and unrest spiralled out of control as the months passed and the US was forced to put substantial forces on the ground to aid the UN. However, after several bloody incidents, US forces were pulled out at the end of March 1994. Since then CENTCOM has kept busy with an expanded strategy based on maintaining regional contact, forward presence, security assistance programmes and a readiness to fight. The sixth CINCENT, General Anthony Zinni, USMC (who took over from General Binford Peay) developed strategies that were specific to each sub-region. He also recognised the danger posed by the spread of advanced technologies and weapons of mass destruction. CENTCOM has faced a number of terrorist attacks against its personnel (such as the June 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran) and increasing intransigence from Iraq which was countered in Operations Desert Thunder (February 1998) and Desert Fox (December 1998). In October 1999 CENTCOM assumed responsibility for five former republics of the Soviet Union: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Central Command, United States: CENTCOM (PETER ANTILL) - Longer Article

How to cite this article: Antill, P. (28 January 2001), Central Command, United States: CENTCOM, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/concepts_centcom.html

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