One of the more interesting bits of news to come out this past weekend was a report on the Foreign Policy web site that Gen. David Petraeus had earlier this year put in a request to the White House that his own Central Command (CENTCOM) be given responsibility for the Palestinian occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza.
Those areas, along with the entire Levant, fall under European Command. Petraeus was reportedly frustrated by the U.S. inability to make any progress on what is the major flashpoint for Arab anger, the Israeli-Palestinian issue, when his constituency is predominantly Arab.
Petraeus was before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning to talk about his command’s budget and CENTCOM’s potential enlargement came up. Petraeus was quick to say that he never sent a memo to the White House recommending the move. “Although some staff members and I have at various times discussed asking for the Palestinian territories or something like that to be added… I have never made that a formal recommendation.”
Although, as he pointed out, U.S. military training of the Palestinian security forces , under the direction of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, takes place in Jordan, which is part of CENTCOM’s area of operations. Those Palestinian forces often patrol jointly with Israeli troops in the Palestinian territories.
“We keep a very close eye on what goes on there because of the impact that it has on that part of CENTCOM that is the Arab world.” At a prompting from Sen. John McCain, Petraeus voiced his support for Obama administration peace envoy George Mitchell and his efforts. “We seek to support him anyway that we can when he is in the CENTCOM part of the region.” The Arab-Israeli conflict does “set the strategic context within which we operate,” Petraeus said. “My thrust has generally been to literally encourage [the peace] process… because of the effect that it has on the moderate governments in our area.”