In testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee on March 16, Petraeus
said his recommendation to include the West Bank and Gaza Strip in Centcom's
area of responsibility took into account the impact of Israeli-Palestinian
developments on the rest of the Middle East. He said Centcom has been in
close contact and cooperation with U.S. security and diplomatic missions in
Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"We keep a very close eye on what goes on there because of the impact it
has on that part of Centcom, the Arab world," Petraeus said.
The general cited Jordan, within Centcom's area of responsibility, as
hosting PA security forces in the U.S.-financed International Police
Training Center. He said Centcom has worked with U.S. security coordinator
Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton as well as U.S. special envoy George Mitchell.
"We support these efforts, as they are critical to the continued
development of legitimate security forces throughout the region, especially
in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and, as a consequence, will be
important to the long term viability of the Middle East peace process,"
Officials said Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, has also supported the expansion of Centcom to include the West Bank
and Gaza Strip. In Februrary 2010, Mullen, during a visit to Israel, held a
long meeting with Dayton, responsible for U.S.-financed training programs of
PA security forces.
The U.S. magazine Foreign Policy reported that in 2009 Petraeus urged
the White House to make the West Bank and Gaza part of Centcom's area of
operations. ForeignPolicy.com said Petraeus argued that the U.S. military
must be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged in efforts to help form a
At the hearing, the general said Centcom has supported Mitchell's
efforts to prepare for a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. He
said Centcom has been briefing Mitchell during his visits to Arab allies of
the United States.
Still, the Foreign Policy report, issued on March 15, said Centcom has
been dismissive of Mitchell. The Web site quoted a senior Pentagon officer as
saying that the 76-year-old former U.S. senator was "too old, too slow ...
and too late."
The Pentagon officer was quoted as recalling a Centcom tour of the
Middle East in December 2009. The tour, which included meetings with Arab
leaders, was marked by widespread criticism of U.S. policy and a perception
that Washington was withdrawing from the region.
"America was not only viewed as weak, but its military posture in the
region was eroding," the officer said.