Biden appoints a battle-hardened officer to lead central command

WASHINGTON – A senior three-star army general with extensive experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been named U.S. Supreme Commander in the Middle East.

President Joe Biden has named Erik Kurilla, Lieutenant General of the Army, head of US Central Command and promoted it to four-star general, according to several US officials.

The Senate Armed Forces Committee notice only states that Kurilla has been made a general and does not specify what job he would get if confirmed. But his nomination for the US Central Command has been expected for several months. US officials confirmed the proposed job on condition of anonymity as it has not yet been published.

If approved by the Senate, Kurilla Marine would replace General Frank McKenzie, who has led command for the past three years and is expected to retire.

Kurilla would take over while the Pentagon continues to seek to shift its focus to the Indo-Pacific and counter an emerging China and strengthen defenses against Russia in Europe, where Moscow is rallying troops near the Ukrainian border, fueling fears of invasion .

The US has withdrawn all armed forces from Afghanistan and has now officially shifted its role in Iraq from fighting to advising and supporting the Iraqi armed forces. But the US strategy of giving China and Russia more weight has been repeatedly hampered by Iran, forcing the Pentagon to maintain a significant troop presence across the Middle East and maintain close ties with allies in the region.

In recent weeks, Iran-backed militias have increased the pace of their attacks on US and allied forces in Iraq and Syria. The groups have made it clear that they want to evict all US troops from Iraq and have vowed to continue the attacks until they are gone.

There have been at least three attacks on US forces bases in Iraq and Syria since Monday. Attacks included rocket and armed drone attacks. Two armed drones were shot down on Monday as they approached a facility for US advisers at Baghdad airport.

A native of Elk River, Minnesota, Kurilla is currently the commandant of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but was previously Chief of Staff of Central Command, working for McKenzie and prior to that for General Joseph Votel.

He graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1988 and has served on several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as the commander of conventional and special forces. He commanded a Stryker battalion in Iraq in 2004 and was shot and wounded in the process.

He later served as the commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, overseeing combat teams stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also served as the chief operations officer with the Joint Special Operations Command and was the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

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