Bush's War Room: Gen. Tommy Franks

ByABC News
December 9, 2002, 2:18 PM

— -- As commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command since July 6, 2000, Army Gen. Tommy Franks is responsible for U.S. security interests in a region that stretches from North Africa across the Arabian peninsula to Central Asia and Afghanistan 25 countries in all.

A four-star general, Franks is the ranking officer in charge of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and one of three men running the Bush administration's military campaign against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization. Franks is responsible for briefing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Early in the Afghanistan campaign, Franks, known for his quiet but forceful leadership qualities, was unfavorably compared to the man who commanded American forces during the Gulf War, Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Critics, recalling the loquacious Schwarzkopf, said Franks was nearly invisible too conservative with his air attacks and keeping too low a profile with the media.

At first, Franks met the criticism with humor: "Tommy Franks is no Norman Schwarzkopf," Franks said during a session with reporters. Rumsfeld quickly added, "Nor vice versa."

As Taliban control of Afghanistan rapidly crumbled under the Franks-led attacks, and his public profile increased, many critics were forced to see the wisdom of Franks' method. And as the victories piled up, Schwarzkopf himself publicly declared Franks "a great soldier."

"You always have the people who are second-guessing and the military experts who aren't," Schwarzkopf said in the second month of the military action. "Remember four weeks ago? Everyone was saying things weren't going well and Tommy Franks was in trouble. Look at things now. What are they saying?"

Dropping Out and Signing Up

Franks was born in Wynnewood, Okla., on June 17, 1945. Dropping out of the University of Texas in 1965, after his sophomore year, Franks joined the Army, got a commission as an artillery lieutenant and shipped out for Vietnam.