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Gen. Tom Franks: A silent partner in Operation Enduring Freedom

Franks runs the day-to-day operations of the Afghan campaign

Army Gen. Tommy Franks
Army Gen. Tommy Franks gave a short news conference in Bahrain Wednesday.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the officer who runs the massive day-to-day operations of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, is considered a full partner in carrying out this war but is usually a silent partner, at least in public anyway.

Besides President George W. Bush, the nation's commander-in-chief, the military portion of the Afghan campaign is being run by Franks, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Franks is the head of U.S. Central Command, which is one of nine U.S. combatant commands that respond directly to the defense secretary and the president. As the commander-in-chief, or "CINC" in military parlance, Franks is in charge of U.S. military operations covering 25 nations in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, including Afghanistan.

CNN's Bob Franken profiles the man leading the military campaign in the war on terrorism, the little-seen Army Gen. Tommy Franks (October 24)

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Rumsfeld and Myers have been very public, often appearing together at Pentagon press briefings. Franks, however, has aggressively avoided the media until Wednesday, when he gave a short news conference in Bahrain.

"Now it's entirely fitting that you would see me standing in my area of operational responsibility," he said.

But behind the scenes, Franks plays an important role, conferring daily via telephone with Rumsfeld and Myers. And when Myers announced last Friday's raid into Afghanistan by U.S. troops, he specifically cited Franks: "Under the direction of the president and secretary of defense and under the command of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Tom Franks, Special Operations forces, including U.S. Army Rangers, deployed to Afghanistan."

Franks came into public view this week because he is on a weeklong tour of his command to meet with troops, commanders and leaders from the countries his command covers.

"My purpose is to do my regular job, which is to be sure that we coordinate the activities that we have going on in the region," he said on Wednesday.

Franks has had some experience with terrorism. Three months into assuming his command, the USS Cole was bombed last year at a port in Yemen.

Franks is coordinating the Afghan operations from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, which is the headquarters of Central Command, or CENTCOM, as it is known.

CENTCOM is based in Florida because of the politics of the region it covers. Open cooperation with the U.S. military could cause an uproar in sensitive places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Franks' military career began in 1967 when he was commissioned a second lieutenant after graduating from Artillery Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He got his first combat experience as an artillery officer in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times.

He advanced through the ranks and by 1991 during Operation Desert Storm, he was an assistant division commander of the 1st Calvary Division.

During the Gulf War, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf was the commander of CENTCOM and his style was distinctly different from Franks. Hardly a day went by without Schwarzkopf speaking to the media or appearing before the cameras.

In Operating Enduring Freedom, hardly a day goes by that Franks is seen. And when he did appear before the cameras on Wednesday, he was careful with what he said, especially when asked about the military operation.

"The operations that we undertake go on 24 hours a day. They go on from the air, they go on day, they go on night and as you have seen I think in some of the media we have had elements on the ground in Afghanistan," he said. "The efforts that we're about with regard to what we're after for this objective are going very, very well, and I'll leave it at that at this point."

-- CNN Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.


• U.S. Central Command
• Gen. Tommy Franks biography

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