U.S. Army Europe officials said Wednesday they did not know what would be the effect, if any, of their expected new boss being assigned interim commander in the Middle East.

Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey was named last month as the next USAREUR commander to succeed Gen. David McKiernan, who was named NATO commander in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, after Central Command commander Adm. William Fallon announced his early retirement, Defense Secretary Robert Gates named Dempsey, deputy commander of CENTCOM, its interim commander.

Gates said Dempsey, who has served two tours in Iraq since the invasion of 2003, would temporarily take Fallon’s place when the admiral retires at the end of this month, serving until a permanent replacement is nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Dempsey had been expected to take over USAREUR in July, weeks after McKiernan’s expected departure.

USAREUR officials said Wednesday they had not received any indication that plans had changed.

“We’ve received no guidance or directives contrary to what’s already been announced, and we’ll proceed as planned unless or until otherwise directed,” said USAREUR spokesman Bruce Anderson.

Fallon’s retirement comes after his public statements on Iran and other issues seemed to put him at odds with the Bush administration. He reportedly had irritated administration officials in recent months with comments that emphasized diplomacy over conflict in dealing with Iran, that endorsed further troop withdrawals in Iraq and that suggested the United States had lost focus in its Afghanistan military mission.

According to The New York Times, a “senior administration official said that, taken together, the comments left the perception he had a different foreign policy than the president.”

Fallon, who took over the Central Command only a year ago and was the first admiral to become the top officer there, said in a statement that “recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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