U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on January 14 that the general who heads U.S. special operations forces will be nominated as the next commander for the Middle East.
Army General Joseph Votel would take over leadership of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. He would succeed Army General Lloyd Austin, who is retiring.
Carter announced the decision at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, standing alongside Votel. He was in town to meet with his commanders about how the fight against IS will take shape this year.
Votel, 57, is a former commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment and a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He headed the secretive Joint Special Operations Command before taking over Special Operations Command in 2014.
His nomination reflects the increased role special operations troops are playing in the region as elite commandos launch raids against IS.