Military Wiki
John Abizaid
Born April 1, 1951(1951-04-01) (age 71)
Place of birth Redwood City, California
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1973-2007
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment
504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
1st Infantry Division
United States Military Academy
United States Central Command
Battles/wars Grenada War
Persian Gulf War
Bosnian War
Kosovo War
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War
Awards Defense Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (6)
Bronze Star Medal
Officer of the Order of Australia
Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Ranger Tab
Expert Infantryman Badge

John Philip Abizaid (born April 1, 1951) is a retired General in the United States Army and former Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), overseeing American military operations in a 27-country region, from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia, covering much of the Middle East. CENTCOM oversees 250,000 US troops. Abizaid succeeded General Tommy Franks as Commander, USCENTCOM, on July 7, 2003, and was also elevated to the rank of four-star general the same week. He was succeeded by Admiral William J. Fallon on March 16, 2007.

Abizaid retired from the military on May 1, 2007, after 34 years of service.[1] As of 2007, Abizaid is employed as a fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.[2] He assumed the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point in December 2007. Abizaid was appointed to the board of directors of RPM International on January 24, 2008, and also sits on the board of directors of the Defense Ventures Group.[3] In 2008 he was selected as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College.[4]

Early life and marriage

Abizaid, an American of Lebanese ancestry, was born in northern California.[5] He was raised Catholic.[5] His father, a Navy machinist in World War II, raised him after Abizaid's mother died of cancer.[5] Abizaid is married and has three children.[5] He learned Arabic in the military.[5]


Abizaid's military education includes the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York (Class of 1973); Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced courses, Armed Forces Staff College, and a U.S. Army War College Senior Fellowship at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

In his civilian studies, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and was an Olmsted Scholar at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan. Abizaid greatly impressed his teachers at Harvard University. Nadav Safran, the director of the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies kept Abizaid's 100-page paper on defense policy for Saudi Arabia, the only paper of a master's student he has kept, saying, "It was absolutely the best seminar paper I ever got in my 30-plus years at Harvard."[citation needed]

Service career

Abizaid was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, Class of June 1973. He started his career with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a rifle and scout platoon leader. He commanded companies in the 2nd and 1st Ranger Battalions, leading a Ranger Rifle Company during the invasion of Grenada. In 1983, he jumped from an MC-130 onto a landing strip in Grenada and ordered one of his Rangers to drive a bulldozer like a tank toward Cuban troops as he advanced behind it—a move highlighted in the 1986 Clint Eastwood film, Heartbreak Ridge.

Abizaid commanded the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Regiment combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, during the Persian Gulf War and deployed with the battalion in Northern Iraq to provide a safe haven for the Kurds.

His brigade command was the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Armored Division, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following that tour, he served as the 66th Commandant at the United States Military Academy at West Point. At West Point, he reined in hazing rituals and revamped the curriculum. Later, he took command of the 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” in Würzburg, Germany, from David L. Grange, which provided the first U.S. ground forces into Kosovo. He served as the Deputy Commander (Forward), Combined Forces Command, US Central Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Robert Gates with Fallon and John Abizaid at the CENTCOM Change of Command ceremony, 2007.

Staff assignments include a tour with the United Nations as Operations Officer (G-3) for Observer Group Lebanon and a tour in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. European staff tours include assignments in both the Southern European Task Force and Headquarters, U.S. Army Europe. Abizaid also served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Director of Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) on the Joint Staff and Director of the Joint Staff.

Following the 2003 Iraq War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, he assumed command of Central Command from General Tommy Franks.

On December 20, 2006, it was announced that Gen. Abizaid would step down from his position and retire in March 2007. He had planned to retire earlier, but stayed at the urging of Donald Rumsfeld.[6] On March 16, 2007, Abizaid transferred command to Admiral William J. Fallon, after serving longer as Commander, U.S. Central Command than any of his predecessors.


War on terror speech

In November 2005, Abizaid gave a speech on the war on terrorism at the Naval War College.[7]

2006–2007 comments on Iraq

On August 3, 2006, Abizaid, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the following about the situation on the ground in Iraq: "I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war." He also testified, "I’m optimistic that that slide [toward civil war] can be prevented".[8]

Bob Woodward on Abizaid and Murtha

In State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (as excerpted in Newsweek magazine), Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote that on March 16, 2006, Abizaid was in Washington to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "He painted a careful but upbeat picture of the situation in Iraq." Subsequently, "he went over to see Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa), the 73-year old former Marine who had introduced a resolution the previous November calling for the redeployment of troops from Iraq as soon as practicable." Abizaid said he wanted to speak frankly, and "according to Murtha, Abizaid raised his hand for emphasis and held his thumb and forefinger a quarter of an inch from each other and said, “We’re that far apart."

On October 1, 2006, an interview of Woodward by CBS reporter Mike Wallace was broadcast on the television show 60 Minutes. Wallace mentioned the Murtha-Abizaid conversation. Wallace asked Woodward to confirm that Murtha had told him of this tale of meeting with Abizaid; Woodward nodded his head in assent and said yes.[9]

Iran's nuclear program

In remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported on September 17, 2007, Abizaid stated, "We need to press the international community as hard as we possibly can, and the Iranians, to cease and desist on the development of a nuclear weapon and we should not preclude any option that we may have to deal with it." He also said, "I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear."

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said, "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."[10]

Awards and decorations

Abizaid has been decorated for service, to include:

1 star jump.svg
Springerabzeichen de.jpg
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Us kw-kwlib rib.png
RangerTab TIoH.gif 75 Ranger Regiment Shoulder Sleeve Insignia.svg
Joint Chiefs of Staff seal.svg GeneralStaffID.gif
  Army Superior Unit Award ribbon.svg


International decorations

See also


  1. Jim Tice (May 2, 2007). "Former CentCom chief retires". Army Times. Retrieved May 2, 2007. 
  2. Stanford Report. "Stanford welcomes back retired Army general, political scientist". Retrieved June 15, 2007. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 de la Garza, Paul (September 3, 2006). "In search of ground truth". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved June 12, 2011. 
  6. Spiegel, Peter (December 20, 2006). "Top general in Mideast to retire". Los Angeles Times.,0,4569132.story?coll=la-home-headlines. Retrieved December 21, 2006. [dead link]
  8. Shanker, Thom (August 4, 2006). "U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War". New York Times. Retrieved December 21, 2006.  (Registration required to view)
  9. "Bob Woodward: State of Denial". 60 Minutes. October 1, 2006. 
  10. Abizaid: World could abide nuclear Iran Yahoo News By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer Mon Sep 17,[dead link]
  11. Dartmouth 2009 Honorary Degree Recipient John P. Abizaid (Doctor of Laws)
  12. USIS Advisory Board members bio
  13. Guest speaker Gen John P. Abizaid
  14. Appointed an Honorary Officer (AO) in the Military Division of the Order of Australia

Further reading

  • Cloud, David; Greg Jaffe (2009). The Fourth Star: Four Generals and the Epic Struggle for the Future of the United States Army. Random House. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Tommy Franks
Commander of United States Central Command
2003- 2007
Succeeded by
William J. Fallon

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