COURTESY U.S. NAVY
Adm. William Fallon, left, U.S. Pacific commander, handed over command yesterday to Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf at Camp Smith. CLICK FOR LARGE
Fallon relinquishes Pacific command
Adm. William Fallon stepped down yesterday as commander of Pacific forces as he prepared to become the first naval officer to head the U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, Fallon's deputy, assumed control of the largest geographical command in the military, encompassing 43 countries and covering an area of more than 100 million square miles from the West Coast to the east coast of Africa.
Leaf will serve as acting commander until the nomination of Fallon's successor, Adm. Timothy Keating, clears the U.S. Senate. Keating was commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command when President Bush selected him to be the next commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Last week, Keating told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if confirmed, he would closely watch China's military development and would make sure Taiwan was able to defend itself if attacked by rival China. The Associated Press said senators at the hearing Thursday appeared to support Keating.
Fallon served for two years before moving to the U.S. Central Command, which has its headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.
While serving at Camp Smith, Fallon invited Chinese officials to observe a U.S. military exercise in the Pacific last July in part to encourage greater Chinese openness.
Last month, Fallon told the Associated Press that the U.S. military was unlikely to make much progress in Iraq unless the Iraqi government moved forward with efforts to reconcile the different factions in the country.