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United States Central Command
Logo of United States Central Command.png
Emblem of the United States Central Command.
Active 1983–present
Country United States
Type Unified Combatant Command
Headquarters MacDill Air Force Base
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
Nickname(s) CENTCOM
Engagements Persian Gulf War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
Combatant Commander General Lloyd Austin, USA
Ceremonial chief Vice Admiral Mark Fox, USN [1]
General David Petraeus
Admiral William Fallon
General John Abizaid
General Tommy Franks
General Anthony Zinni
General James Mattis
General Norman Schwarzkopf

The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) is a theater-level Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. Department of Defense, established in 1983. It was originally conceived of as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF).

Its area of responsibility includes countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq. CENTCOM has been the main American presence in many military operations, including the Persian Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan (2001–2021), and the Iraq War. Forces from USCENTCOM (also called CENTCOM) currently are deployed primarily in Iraq and Afghanistan in combat roles and have bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Pakistan, and central Asia in support roles. CENTCOM forces have also been deployed in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia in the past, and although there is a small presence remaining in each of those countries, no substantial U.S. forces are based there as of 2014.

The current commander of USCENTCOM is General Lloyd J. Austin, USA, who took command from General James Mattis, USMC on 22 March 2013. Mattis took command from [2][3][4] Lieutenant General John Allen, USMC, the deputy commander since July 2008, who took temporary command when the previous commander, General David Petraeus, USA, left to take command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan on 23 June.[5]

Of the six American regional unified commands, CENTCOM is one of three regional unified commands whose headquarters are not within its area of operations. CENTCOM's main headquarters is located at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, although a forward headquarters was established in 2002 at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha, Qatar, which transitioned to a new forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in 2009 to serve American strategic interests if the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) and Area of Interest (AOI). The other regional unified commands with headquarters located outside their areas of operations are United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), currently based in Miami, Florida, and United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM), currently based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Exercise Internal Look is one of the Command's primary planning events. Up until around 1990, it was annual, but it is now held every two years. Up until 1990 it was frequently used to train CENTCOM to be ready to defend the Zagros Mountains from a Soviet attack.[6] It has been employed for explicit war planning on at least two occasions: Internal Look '90, which was held after General Norman Schwarzkopf reoriented CENTCOM's planning to fending off a threat from Iraq, and Internal Look '03, which was used to plan what became Operation Iraqi Freedom.


In 1983, U.S. Central Command succeeded the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force with responsibilities for handling United States national security interests in South-west Asia, Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. Among its first major activities was oversight of the Tanker War in the Persian Gulf (1987–1988).

In April–July 1999 CENTCOM conducted Exercise Desert Crossing 1999 centered on the scenario of Saddam Hussein being ousted as Iraq’s dictator. The exercise was held in the McLean, Virginia, offices of Booz Allen.[7] The exercise concluded that unless measures are taken, “fragmentation and chaos” will ensue after Saddam Hussein's overthrow.


No fighting units are directly subordinate to this command; rather, there four subordinate service component commands and one subordinate unified command.

Service component commands
Sub-unified command

There are major subordinate multiservice commands reporting to Central Command which are conducting operations in various areas:

The former United States Forces – Iraq (see also Iraq War order of battle), or USF-I, was also a major subordinate multiservice command until it was disestablished in 2011.

On 1 October 2008 Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti was transferred to AFRICOM. During the Israeli incursion into Lebanon of 2006 a temporary task force, Joint Task Force Lebanon was also operational.

CENTCOM staff directorates include personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, plans & policy, information systems, training & exercises, and resources, as well as other functions. The intelligence section is known as JICCENT, or Joint Intelligence Center, Central Command, which serves as a Joint Intelligence Center for the co-ordination of intelligence. Under the intelligence directorate, there are several divisions including the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence.

There are also elements of other Unified Combatant Commands, especially United States Special Operations Command, operating in the CENTCOM area. It appears that SOCCENT does not direct the secretive Task Force 77, the ad-hoc grouping of Joint Special Operations Command 'black' units such as Delta Force and Army Rangers, which is tasked to pursue the most sensitive high value targets such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership since 11 September 2001. Rather TF 77, which started out as Task Force 11 and has gone through a number of name/number changes, reports directly to Joint Special Operations Command, part of USSOCOM.

Geographic scope

CENTCOM Area Of Responsibility

The formal Area of Responsibility (AOR) extends to 20 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uzbekistan, and Yemen. International waters included are the Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and western portions of the Indian Ocean.[8] Syria and Lebanon are the most recent addition, having been transferred from the United States European Command on 10 March 2004.

Israel, which is now surrounded by CENTCOM countries remains in EUCOM, "because it is more politically, militarily and culturally aligned with Europe," according to American military officials.[9][citation needed] General Norman Schwarzkopf expressed the position over Israel more frankly in his 1992 autobiography: 'European Command also kept Israel, which from my viewpoint was a help: I'd have had difficulty impressing the Arabs with Central Command's grasp of geopolitical nuance if one of the stops on my itinerary had been Tel Aviv.'[10]

On 7 February 2007, plans were announced for the creation of a United States Africa Command which would transfer responsibility for all of Africa except the country of Egypt to the new USAFRICOM. On 1 October 2008, the Africa Command became operational and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the primary CENTCOM force on the continent, started reporting to AFRICOM at Stuttgart instead of CENTCOM in Tampa.

Major US troop presence in the region dates to the 1990 Invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Operation Desert Shield, which transferred hundreds of thousands of troops to Saudi Arabia. Islamists objected to the presence of non-Muslim troops in Saudi Arabia, and their use in Operation Desert Storm and other attacks on Iraq became a key rallying cry for opposition movements in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. By the late 1990s, a gradual move to other countries was underway, particularly Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE.

The military uses a variable number of base locations depending on its level of operations. With warfare ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003, the United States Air Force used 35 bases, while in 2006 it used 14, including four in Iraq. The United States Navy maintains one major base and one smaller installation, with extensive deployments afloat and ashore by U.S. Navy, U.S Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard ships, aviation units and ground units.

List of CENTCOM commanders

No. Image Name Service Start End Time in office
1. General Robert Kingston, official military photo, 1984.JPEG GEN Robert Kingston United States Army 1 January 1983 27 November 1985 1,061 days
2. General George Crist, official military photo, 1985.JPEG Gen George B. Crist United States Marine Corps 27 November 1985 23 November 1988 1,092 days
3. NormanSchwarzkopf.jpg GEN H. Norman Schwarzkopf United States Army 23 November 1988 9 August 1991 989 days
4. Joseph Hoar official military photo.jpg Gen Joseph P. Hoar United States Marine Corps 9 August 1991 5 August 1994 1,092 days
5. General Binford Peay, official military photo, 1991.jpg GEN J. H. Binford Peay III United States Army 5 August 1994 13 August 1997 1,104 days
6. Anthony Zinni.jpg Gen Anthony Zinni United States Marine Corps 13 August 1997 6 July 2000 1,058 days
7. TommyFranks.jpg GEN Tommy Franks United States Army 6 July 2000 7 July 2003 1,096 days
8. John Abizaid.jpg GEN John Abizaid United States Army 7 July 2003 16 March 2007 1,348 days
9. ADM Fallon Portrait.jpg ADM William J. Fallon United States Navy 16 March 2007 28 March 2008 378 days
(Acting) General Martin E. Dempsey.jpg LTG Martin E. Dempsey United States Army 28 March 2008 31 October 2008 217 days
10. GEN David H Petraeus - Uniform Class A.jpg GEN David H. Petraeus United States Army 31 October 2008 30 June 2010 607 days
(Acting) LtGen John R. Allen USMC.jpg LtGen John R. Allen United States Marine Corps 30 June 2010 11 August 2010 42 days
11. Mattis Centcom 2010.jpg Gen James Mattis United States Marine Corps 11 August 2010 22 March 2013 954 days
12. Austin 2013 2.jpg GEN Lloyd Austin United States Army 22 March 2013 Incumbent 3,434 days

Unit decorations

The unit awards depicted below are for Headquarters, US Central Command at MacDill AFB. Award for unit decorations do not apply to any subordinate organization such as the service component commands or any other activities unless the orders specifically address them.

Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 August 1990 – 21 April 1991 Department of the Army General Order (DAGO) 1991-22 & 1992-34[11]
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 August 1992 – 4 May 1993 DAGO 1994-12 & 1996-01
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 8 October 1994 – 16 March 1995 DAGO 2001–25
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 September 1996 – 6 January 1997 Joint Staff Permanent Order (JSPO) J-ISO-0012-97
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 October 1997 – 15 July 1998 JSPO J-ISO-0241-98
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 16 July 1998 – 1 November 1999 JSPO J-ISO-0330-99 / DAGO 2001–25
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 November 1999 – 15 March 2001
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 11 September 2001 – 1 May 2003 DAGO 2005–09
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 May 2003 – 31 December 2005
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 1 January 2006 – 1 March 2008 JSPO J-ISO-0061-08
Streamer JMUA.PNG Joint Meritorious Unit Award 2 March 2008 – 1 July 2010

See also


  2. "Mattis takes over Central Command, vows to work with Mideast allies in Afghanistan, Iraq". Fox News. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  3. Mitchell, Robbyn (12 August 2010). "Mattis takes over as CentCom chief". St. Petersburg Times. p. 1. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  4. "Mattis assumes command of CENTCOM". U.S. Central Command. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2010. 
  5. "Lt. Gen. Allen named CENTCOM acting commander". U.S. Central Command. 30 June 2010. Retrieved 2 July 2010. 
  6. Norman Schwarzkopf, It Doesn't Take a Hero, Bantam Books paperback edition, 1993, p.331–2, 335–6. ISBN 0-553-56338-6. Harold Coyle's novel Sword Point gives an impression of what such planning envisaged, by a U.S. Army officer who would have had some idea of the general planning approach.
  7. Gordon, Michael R.; Trainor, Bernard E. (2012). The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 6-7. ISBN 978-0-307-37722-7.
  8., Central Command
  9. Department of Defense: Unified Command
  10. Schwarzkopf, It Doesn't Take a Hero, Bantam Books paperback edition, 1993, p.318
  11. "Department of the Army General Orders". United States Army Publications Directorate. Retrieved 30 April 2011.  (Army Knowledge Online account may be required.)

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