TAMPA, Fla. -- Marine Gen. James Mattis, commander of U.S. Central Command, canceled the annual commander's holiday party in anticipation of traveling because of issues taking place in its region of responsibility, according to a statement released by the command today.
"General Mattis anticipated a change in his schedule due to recent activity in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility," according to the statement, "and has regrettably had to cancel his holiday reception scheduled for Dec. 2 because he will be traveling during that time."
Centcom has responsibility for one of the world's most volatile regions. Though the Israel-Gaza conflict is not in an area controlled by the command, neighboring countries that may be affected by the fighting are, including Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
Also, Iran, a longtime foe of Israel that has sent arms to Hamas and Hezbollah, is in the command's region.
In addition, the United States is negotiating an agreement to extend the presence of military forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the date President Barack Obama set for the withdrawal of combat forces.
The statement did not specify which issue Mattis will be dealing with.
The command did not comment about the cancellation.
Rob Rowen, owner of Nuance Gallery and an invitee, said he learned that the party was canceled Tuesday and said there was an implication that it was the result of controversy surrounding Tampa socialite Jill Kelley and her close access to generals and admirals at MacDill Air Force Base, home of the command.
Kelley was held in such high regard that she received the second-highest award available to civilians from the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. The award was requested by David Petraeus, at the time the four-star general at the head of the command. Because of a problem in the award package, it was resubmitted by Mattis.
Petraeus resigned as head of the CIA after his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell was uncovered while the FBI investigated emails sent by Broadwell to Kelley. Marine Gen. John Allen -- head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, saw his nomination to head U.S. forces in Europe put on hold after investigators found thousands of emails between himself and Kelley, prompting a Department of Defense inspector general's probe.