Pentagon: Speculation that Gen. Ham is leaving over Benghazi 'absolutely false'

No timeline for Gen. Ham's retirement

WASHINGTON -  

Defense Department leaders remain fully confident in the commander of U.S. Africa Command, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told Pentagon reporters on Thursday.

Little said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, maintain complete faith in the job Army Gen. Carter F. Ham is doing as Africom’s leader.

“General Ham is doing an exceptional job leading Africa Command. He has the full confidence of the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.

“His decision to retire has been an entirely personal decision to move on,” Little said. “People retire at certain stages of their career and that’s what’s happening in this case.”

President Barack Obama announced Oct. 18 his plans to nominate Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez to succeed Ham as leader of Africom, the newest combatant command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. The command encompasses all of Africa and its adjacent waters except for Egypt.

The chairman dismissed alleged reasons for Ham’s departure in an Oct. 29 statement.

"The speculation that General Carter Ham is departing Africa Command due to events in Benghazi, Libya, on [Sept. 11,] 2012 is absolutely false,” Dempsey said in his statement. “General Ham's departure is part of routine succession planning that has been ongoing since July. He continues to serve in Africom with my complete confidence."

Little also dispelled rumors that Ham will step down from his position next year for any reason other than personal choice.

“There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation, particularly in the blogosphere, about General Ham,” he said. “And that speculation and those rumors are absolutely, categorically false.”

“He will continue to lead Africa Command,” he said, “and he is on the job, doing it effectively, and we expect him to do so until he retires and transitions to General Rodriguez -- if General Rodriguez is confirmed by the United States Senate.”

The press secretary said he didn’t have a timeline for when Ham will step down and Rodriguez might assume command.

“A lot of it will depend on Senate action,” Little said. “We believe the hearings will take place in the next couple of months, and then we’ll decide when a change of command is appropriate.”

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Courtesy: American Forces Press Service