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September 26, 2008
By Jane Tors
John Abizaid, the longest-serving leader of U.S. Central Command (CentCom) and former top commander for the wars and counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, will give a free presentation, “The Foreign Policy Challenges of our Next President,” on Oct. 1, 7 p.m., at the Joe Crowley Student Union Ballroom on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The four-star general is a longtime expert in Middle Eastern affairs.
During a distinguished, 34-year military career, Abizaid commanded units at every level and served in the combat zones of Grenada, Lebanon, Kurdistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and during his career rose from infantry platoon leader to become the Army’s youngest four-star general at the time. He commanded the 1st Infantry Division, a brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division and two Ranger companies. Abizaid worked on the Joint Chiefs of Staff three times, the last as director.
Abizaid, who studied at the University of Jordan in Amman, holds a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. In 2007, he was named the first Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. Abizaid works with the Preventative Defense Project at Stanford and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He regularly speaks on leadership and international security through the Washington Speakers Bureau, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
CentCom, established in 1983, covers the “central” region between the European and Pacific commands and includes East Africa, Central Asia and much of the Middle East. Abizaid took over command from Gen. Tommy Franks in July 2003 and was elevated to the rank of four-star general that week. Gen. David Petraeus takes over as CentCom commander in late October.
Abizaid retired from the U.S. Army in May 2007 and relocated to the Gardnerville, Nev., area with his wife, Kathy. It was a homecoming of sorts, as Abizaid was born in the nearby Coleville, Calif., area, and attended Coleville High School.
Abizaid’s presentation at the University is part of the ongoing Nevada Speaker Series. The Associated Students of the University of Nevada and the Northern Nevada International Center are sponsors.