General (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a distinguished senior fellow on national security at MEI. He retired as a four-star general in the United States Army after a nearly 40-year career, during which he held a variety of commands in positions of leadership, including most recently as commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) from March 2016 to March 2019. 

In his role at CENTCOM, Gen. Votel oversaw military operations across the region, including the campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Before CENTCOM he was the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He was the commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment when they deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 and to Iraq in 2003. While assigned to the Pentagon, he organized the original IED Task Force that eventually grew into the Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Organization (JIDO). 

During his military career, Gen. Votel gained extensive operational experience across the Middle East, Levant, Central and South Asia, Northern Africa, and the Horn of Africa. He was awarded numerous medals of service including three Defense Distinguished Service Medals, an Army Distinguished Service Medal, three Defense Superior Service Medals, two Legion of Merit medals, and four Bronze Star Medals.


Gen. Votel is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the United States Army War College.

Countries/regions of expertise

Middle East, Levant, Central and South Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.

Issues of expertise

National security, defense, military affairs, counter-terrorism, U.S. Middle East policy, U.S. security policy, counter-insurgency.

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