By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., March 22, 2013 – The war in Afghanistan and maintaining contacts throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility will be Centcom’s continuing mission, Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III said here today after taking the command’s reins.
Austin received the Centcom flag from Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis, who will retire after a four-decade military career.
The general assumes command at a time when American troops are still in combat in Afghanistan and the outcome of the Arab Spring remains unknown.
Austin praised the men and women of the command for their expertise and professionalism, noting that in the last decade, the command has fought two wars thousands of miles from America’s shores. He also thanked the representatives of 60 nations who have fought alongside America’s finest.
“All 60 nations are continuing to play an integral role in what we do at this unique headquarters and throughout the Centcom area of responsibility,” he said.
All that the military has accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan is incredible, Austin said, but he added that he’ll leave the final word to historians.
“The fact is, the full story has not been written,” he said. “That said, these are historic times and challenging times, and much more will be required of us in the days ahead, for the world that we live in remains complex and extremely volatile.” Much of that instability is in the Central Command region.
Calling Afghanistan his top priority, Austin pledged to do all he can to ensure the success of the mission there. The United States and its allies will continue to work with the Afghans so their security forces can protect their own people, and this commitment will continue beyond the end of 2014, when Afghan forces will have full security responsibility for their country and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission ends.
The United States must remain engaged in the Middle East and Central Asia, Austin said. “We must remain mindful of the fact that success in our various critical endeavors will require the efforts of many -- indeed, all -- of us, working together,” he added, noting that the leaders and people of the region want to help to find solutions for the problems.
The general cited the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council as just two organizations that can work toward peace in the region. “The U.S. will continue to play an important role as a key partner to our friends and allies,” Austin said. “We will provide them with the necessary support, and we will stand ready and willing to hold accountable those who would threaten the regional stability and security through their actions or through the actions of proxies.”