John P. Abizaid (born April 1, 1951) is a general in the United States Army and the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), overseeing American military operations in a 25-country region, from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, covering much of the Middle East. The Central Command oversees 250,000 US troops. He succeded General Tommy Franks to this position on July 7, 2003, and was also elevated to the rank of 4-star general the same week. Previously, he was one of the two deputy commanders of CENTCOM.
A West Point graduate, Abizaid was born in the United States to a Christian Lebanese American family, is fully fluent in Arabic, and is the most senior military officer of direct Arab descent. He also attended Stanford University and the University of Amman in Jordan.
Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1973, where he acquired the nickname "the mad Arab." He went on to earn a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. He also studied at the University of Jordan in Amman and was an operations officer with a U.N observer group in Lebanon.
He participated in northern Iraq in the 1990s in protection of the Kurds (Operation Provide Comfort), as well as in Bosnia and Kosovo. Before taking on leadership roles at CENTCOM, Abizaid served in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Armored Division.
His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with five Oak Leaf Clusters and the Bronze Star. Abizaid's heroism in the 1983 invasion of Grenada was made into the film Heartbreak Ridge with Clint Eastwood playing his role.
Originally from Coleville, California, he is married and has three children.