- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army vice chief of staff, has been nominated for a newly created post that would make him the top U.S. commander and only four-star general in Iraq.

The nomination, which had been expected, was announced yesterday by the Pentagon along with several other major command assignments, including Navy Vice Adm. Timothy J. Keating to be commander of Northern Command, the military command that was created after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Adm. Keating was the commander of naval operations during the initial phase of the Iraq war.

The nominations have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is currently the top American commander in Iraq. His role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse case has come under question recently and, although there is no accusation against him, senior Pentagon officials believed he could not be confirmed quickly by the Senate for the newly created position of commander of Multi-National Forces Iraq. Gen. Casey, who has been Army vice chief only since last October, is not expected to face Senate opposition.

As a four-star general in Iraq, Gen. Casey would be responsible for overseeing the U.S.-led military operation and interacting with the new Iraqi government that takes over June 30 as well as the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, John Negroponte. A three-star, Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, would manage day-to-day military activities.

Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, will remain the top military officer responsible for the Iraq mission and also has responsibility for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and other countries in that region.

Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey have worked together previously and their Army careers have had some recent parallels. Both were assistant commanders of the 1st Armored Division in Germany in 1996-97, both were division commanders in Germany in 1999-2000, and Gen. Casey was head of strategic plans for the Joint Staff in the Pentagon in 2001 while Gen. Abizaid was director of the Joint Staff.

When Gen. Abizaid was promoted to deputy commander of Central Command in January 2003, Gen. Casey succeeded him as Joint Staff director. Gen. Casey, whose first duty assignment in the Army was as a mortar platoon leader in Germany in 1971, has never commanded troops in combat.

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