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Gen. Tommy Franks to retire

Franks turned down the Army's top job earlier this month.
Franks turned down the Army's top job earlier this month.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced Thursday that Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, will retire from active duty this summer.

In a statement, Rumsfeld said Franks would step down as Centcom commander in the next few weeks, and end his military career for good later this summer.

"He has served our country with great distinction," Rumsfeld's statement said of Franks.

"I consider myself privileged to have worked so closely with him over these many months."

Franks, who led U.S. forces in the latest U.S.-led war against Iraq, is also credited with creating winning military strategies in Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, Rumsfeld offered Franks, 57, the post of Army chief of staff -- the highest job in the Army. But Franks turned it down.

While many senior officers are anxious to make more money in the private sector after a lifetime of military pay, sources said Franks' decision was less about money than a lack of enthusiasm for the internecine battles in the Pentagon bureaucracy.

"This is a man, a combatant commander who has won two wars," one official said. "He's not really excited about a desk job."

Sources said Rumsfeld informally offered the job to Franks after his first choice, Gen. John Keane, the current vice chief of staff, bowed out.

The term of the current Army chief of staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, ends in June, and Rumsfeld is expected to recommend a successor soon, sources said.

Technically, President Bush nominates the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are then confirmed by the Senate, but Rumsfeld's private recommendations are said to be the determining factor in who is chosen.

Sources said Rumsfeld might turn to one of Franks' deputies to lead the Army, Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, who speaks Arabic and was chosen by Rumsfeld to work with Franks before the war.

Officials close to Rumsfeld said he has been unhappy with the pace of transformation in the Army, and last month fired the civilian in charge, Army Secretary Thomas White.

Publicly, the Pentagon announced that White had resigned, and Rumsfeld praised his service.

But Rumsfeld quickly moved to give the job to Air Force Secretary Jim Roche, a trusted friend who shares Rumsfeld's vision for the military and is known for a sharp intellect and a penchant for "shaking things up," in the words of one official.

Sources said Rumsfeld is also unhappy with Shinseki, who drew the Pentagon's ire before the Iraq war by suggesting it would likely take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to secure the peace.


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