- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

From combined dispatches

The Pentagon will replace its top commander in Iraq, a move that U.S. officials said was not related to the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will be replaced in June or July, said U.S. officials, who suggested that Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey is the most likely candidate to replace Gen. Sanchez.

“There has been no final decision on a replacement, but General Casey is a top candidate,” one official told Reuters. Other officials, saying the change of command was not a result of revelations about prisoner abuse, noted that Gen. Sanchez was due for a rotation of duty after 13 months of commanding in Baghdad.

Also yesterday, the Army suspended Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski as commander of the military police brigade implicated in the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Gen. Karpinski and other officers in the 800th Military Police Brigade were faulted by Army investigators for paying too little attention to day-to-day operations at Abu Ghraib and for not moving firmly enough to discipline soldiers for violating standard procedures.

Seven U.S. soldiers have been charged with physically and sexually abusing and humiliating Iraqi detainees at the prison near Baghdad.

At the Pentagon, Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said both Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “are very impressed with the work General Sanchez performed from the very beginning” of his service in Iraq.

President Bush yesterday praised Gen. Sanchez at an Oval Office event.

“Rick Sanchez has done a fabulous job,” Mr. Bush said of the general. “He’s been there for a long time. His service has been exemplary.”

Gen. Sanchez testified before a Senate committee last week on the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal and took responsibility.

Meanwhile, officials said yesterday the Army is planning to send into combat thousands of soldiers whose normal job it is to play the role of the “enemy” at training ranges in California and Louisiana.

The Pentagon also is considering adding another National Guard brigade, the 155th Separate Armored Brigade from Mississippi, to Iraq in the next rotation of ground forces, other Army officials said.

About 2,500 soldiers from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which serves as a professional enemy force at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., will be deployed to Iraq, officials said, as will the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry, which plays a similar role in training at Fort Polk, La.

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