WASHINGTON - The top U.S. military officer is denying reports that Army Gen. Carter Ham's planned departure as head of U.S. Africa Command is linked to the Sept. 11 attack in Libya.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey issued a written statement Monday calling speculation about the reasons for Ham's move "absolutely false."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Oct. 18 that Gen. David Rodriguez is being nominated to succeed Ham. The Africa Command is responsible for U.S. military operations and relations in much of Africa.
Last week, Panetta said he, Dempsey and Ham all felt very strongly that it would have been a mistake to insert U.S. forces into Benghazi during the attack, which killed four Americans.
Dempsey's statement follows reports in The Washington Times and elsewhere, largely from conservative-leaning websites, that Ham was removed because he had readied a Special Forces team to deploy to Benghazi against direct orders.
Dempsey said Monday that Ham's departure is part of "routine succession planning."
Military.com contributed to this report.