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US to replace top Iraq general
May 25, 2004 17:59 IST
With the issue of prisoners' abuse by US soldiers receiving worldwide attention, President George W Bush plans to replace top Army commander in Iraq, Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez, with a four-star general.
The leading contender for the post currently is General George W Casey, the Army's second in command. Also under consideration for the post is Lt Gen Bantz J Craddock, the senior military assistant to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to The Washington Post.
Sanchez has three stars. A four-star general has more clout and would be seen as an indication of how seriously the administration views the post of commanding troops in Iraq. Most important regional commanders around the world, including Gen. John Abizaid who leads Central Command, are four-star generals, said USA Today.
Several officials said yesterday that Rumsfeld seemed to pull back from formally proposing Gen Craddock.
Gen Sanchez has denied that he attended any of the abusive interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison. But despite his claim that was unaware of them until the Red Cross reported the abuses after which he promptly ordered an investigation, his career may suffer. He was slated to head the Southern Command, with responsibility for South America, most of Central America and the Caribbean.
Army promotions are subject to Senate confirmation and if he is proposed for the Southern Command, his role during the prison abuses in Baghdad are thought likely to figure once again in the confirmation debate, which could be embarrassing to the Administration.
The abuses have already resulted in the suspension of Brig Gen Janis L Karpinski, who headed the prison staff in Iraq at Abu Ghraib.
By all accounts, Karpinski failed to exercise her authority at the prison and was even incapable of maintaining discipline among the junior officers. She blamed Military Intelligence for overriding her authority but she outranked them and could have been more assertive, say military sources.
With the name of the US tarnished the world over because of the outrageous treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, more heads are expected to roll.
Former head of Central Command General Anthony Zinni has said that it makes no sense for President Bush to say that he will stay the course on Iraq, for, according to him, that course was "flawed" from the start and is heading down the Niagara.
If he were secretary of defence at this time, he would have tendered his resignation to the Commander-in-Chief, US President George W Bush, he said.