US appoints Iraq War general & ex-CENTCOM chief as Ukraine senior defense adviser

General John Abizaid © Charles W Luzier
General John Abizaid, former head of the US Central Command, has been appointed senior defense adviser to Ukraine’s top military brass, with the stated goal of bringing it “in line with Western principles and standards.”

The announcement was made on Thursday at a meeting between US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Ukrainian counterpart Stepan Poltorak, held during the UK-hosted UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial.

“Gen Abizaid will provide authoritative advice to Minister Poltorak and other senior Ukrainian officials as Ukraine aims to implement reforms designed to bring its armed forces in line with Western principles and standards,” Carter was quoted as saying by the Washington Examiner.

Abizaid, a career officer who has seen various deployments since the 1991 Gulf War, will be in charge of what Carter described as “enhancing democratic civilian control of the military, transitioning to a NATO-interoperable staff structure, and combating corruption.” Abizaid served as deputy commander (Forward), Combined Forces Command, US Central Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Other details of Abizaid’s appointment have not yet been disclosed. It is also unclear if the move will affect the fragile truce between government and rebel forces in eastern Ukraine.

At the same meeting, the US and Ukraine signed a new partnership agreement likely to enhance military-to-military ties and efforts to tailor Ukraine's army to NATO standards.

“It's about Ukrainian capability for defending its own territory, that's been the objective of all of our assistance to Ukraine so it continues in the same vein,” Carter said.

"It just allows us greatly to strengthen that and get it off an ad hoc basis of the last two years, reacting to events and put it on, in this case, a five-year horizon.”

Other US nationals hold top positions in the Ukrainian government, including Natalia Yaresko, the current finance minister. In May, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former NATO secretary general, was chosen as a new “non-staff” adviser to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.