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Gen. Joe Votel
Gen. Joe Votel ()
Gen. Joe Votel
Gen. Joe Votel ()
Gen. Lloyd Austin
Gen. Lloyd Austin ()

The U.S. military’s top special operations officer is expected soon to be nominated to head U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military efforts across the volatile Middle East, including combat missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported.

President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Gen. Joe Votel, who heads U.S. Special Operations Command, to become chief of the Tampa, Fla.-based CENTCOM, the Journal reported on Tuesday, citing unnamed Pentagon sources.

The move reflects the prominent role elite units are playing in a region where special operators rather than large conventional ground units have emerged as Obama’s preferred ground force for carrying out dangerous, often secret missions.

Votel would replace Gen. Lloyd Austin, who has headed CENTCOM since 2013 and previously led U.S. forces in Iraq during the military’s drawdown there in 2011.

The pending change at CENTCOM is the first of many to come for the military’s combatant commands.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, head of U.S. European Command, is expected to retire later this year, as is Africa Command’s Gen. David Rodriguez. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is expected to recommend Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the senior American commander in South Korea, as the next EUCOM chief, the Journal reported. The EUCOM commander also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander.

A U.S. Marine — either Gen. John Paxton or Gen. Thomas Waldhauser — is likely to take charge of AFRICOM, the Journal reported. Meanwhile, U.S. Pacific Air Forces’ Gen. Lori Robinson is likely to be named head of U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the first woman to lead a combatant command, the Journal reported.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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