US military commander and Abu Ghraib chief to be replaced after abuse scandal

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The Independent US

The fallout from the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib finally reached the Pentagon yesterday when it was announced that the senior military commander in Iraq was being shifted and the officer who was in charge of the jail had been suspended.

The fallout from the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib finally reached the Pentagon yesterday when it was announced that the senior military commander in Iraq was being shifted and the officer who was in charge of the jail had been suspended.

Officials said that Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez will be replaced by General George Casey, the army's deputy Chief of Staff, after spending more than 12 months there. Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who ran the prison, has been suspended.

The White House and the Pentagon said the decision to replace General Sanchez was in no way linked to the prison scandal and that his superiors were impressed with the job he had done in Iraq. President Bush said the officer had done a "fabulous job". He added: "His service has been exemplary."

But regardless of whether General Sanchez and General Karpinski were personally responsible over the abuse scandal - General Karpinski was criticised by an army investigation - both have become symbolic of inadequate supervision at the prison, west of Baghdad.

Reports suggest it had been planned for several months that General Sanchez, a three-star general, would be promoted and given charge of US Southern Command, a Miami-based position that oversees military operations and relationships in Latin America. But one report said that, within the past few days, something had happened to derail that plan and the Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was planning to send his senior military assistant, Lieutanant-General Bantz Craddock, to do that job.

John Pike, director of the military think-tank GlobalSecurity.org, said the shift of General Sanchez might be a form of "office politics". But he added: "He has done his year in Iraq. We are not asking other soldiers to do more than a year in Iraq. Why should he have to do more?"

General Karpinski, who has returned to the US, has not been charged with any offence. Technically she could be reinstated because she has been suspended rather than relieved of her command but that is seen to be unlikely.

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