General Tommy Franks is commander of U.S. Central Command, responsible for all U.S. military operations in a vast region of the world comprising two continents and 25 countries. In that role, the four-star general oversees day-to-day maneuvers of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Franks joined the Army in 1967 as an artillery officer and served briefly in Vietnam. He left the armed forces to get a degree in business administration and returned to serve in Germany, at the Pentagon, and in the Persian Gulf during the Gulf War. Along the way, he was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.
Franks' Central Command is based at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Before September 11, 18,000 to 25,000 military personnel, 25 to 30 warships, and over 200 aircraft fell under his command. Today, those numbers are much larger due to the conflict in Afghanistan. Franks assumed his post in 2000, just days before the Navy ship USS Cole was attacked by al Qaeda-backed terrorists.
In the weeks before the Afghan capital of Kabul fell to Northern Alliance forces (see "What Is The Northern Alliance?"), Franks was criticized by members of the national media for being inaccessible to their questions about the campaign in Afghanistan. Unlike General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led Central Command during the Gulf War and became a national figure in the process, Franks shies from the spotlight. Only in the current conflict's fifth week did he give his first official briefing to reporters, along with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (see "Who Is Donald Rumsfeld?"). During that press conference, the general invoked the third person to compare himself to his predecessor. "Tommy Franks is no Norman Schwarzkopf," Franks said. Perhaps sensing a negative soundbite in the making, Rumsfeld quickly added, "nor vice versa."
Franks' admirers say he is a dyed-in-the-wool soldier who relishes the traditional culture and procedures of the military. But critics said the 56-year-old Oklahoman's style and tactics are too conventional given the unconventional nature of the current conflict. "He seems very unimaginative and timid," former Army Special Forces and CIA officer Michael Vickers told The Washington Post during the week before Northern Alliance troops stormed into Kabul. "The overall effort seems slow off the mark and pretty inadequate."
But administration officials have declined to criticize Franks. According to Secretary Rumsfeld, "He has my full trust and respect, and I know he has the trust and respect of the president of the United States."
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An MTV News Staff report
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