- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

2:41 p.m.

The Senate today confirmed Gen. George W. Casey Jr. as the next Army chief of staff, despite reservations by several lawmakers over his direction of the Iraq war.

Gen. Casey was confirmed by a bipartisan 83-14 vote. He had been top U.S. commander in Iraq since July 2004, but President Bush replaced him with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus as part of an overhaul of his Iraq policies and his team of top U.S. officials in the Middle East.

The Senate a day earlier confirmed Navy Adm. William J. Fallon to replace Army Gen. John P. Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations throughout the Middle East. It had also approved retired Vice Adm. J. Michael “Mike” McConnell to become the nation’s second national intelligence director.

“America will benefit,” Mr. Bush said in a statement applauding the confirmations of all three men. “I look forward to working with each of these strong leaders.”

Their approval comes as Democrats begin a full-court press against Mr. Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. House Democratic leaders are planning a vote next week on a resolution stating opposition to the buildup, while some senators are considering bogging down upcoming budget bills with antiwar measures.

Despite their opposition to Mr. Bush’s war strategies, Democrats defended Gen. Casey while Republicans who support Mr. Bush’s policies assailed the general, accusing him of mismanaging the conflict.

Voting for Gen. Casey’s confirmation were 44 Democrats, 37 Republicans and two independents. Ten Republicans and four Democrats voted “no.”

“Gen. Casey knows Iraq and the challenges the Army faces there,” Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this week, adding: “The principal failures that led to the chaos in Iraq were due to the civilian leaders.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said Gen. Casey should be held accountable for giving Congress rosy assessments of the war as the violence got worse.

“I have questioned in the past and question today a number of decisions and judgments that Gen. Casey has made in the past two and a half years,” said Mr. McCain. “During that time, conditions in Iraq have gotten remarkably and progressively worse.”

Testifying this month before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Casey said he had asked for three fewer ground combat units than Mr. Bush is sending to Iraq. Mr. Bush announced Jan. 10 that he would send five brigades to Iraq, whereas Gen. Casey had requested only two.

Gen. Casey said he does not oppose the deployment of the additional brigades because it would give U.S. commanders in Iraq flexibility.

Gen. Casey will replace Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who is retiring.

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