Pentagon mulls naming new top US officer in Iraq
( 2004-01-07 13:52) (Agencies)
The Pentagon is considering naming a four-star general as the new senior U.S. officer in Iraq as part of a restructuring of military leadership there before the planned return of sovereignty by July, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
U.S. Defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the proposal entails the appointment of a four-star general, probably from the Army or Marine Corps, to handle broad security issues as Iraq returns to self-government and deal with the country's new authorities.
A U.S.-led invasion drove former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power in April 2003.
Another lower-ranking U.S. general would guide operations against the Iraqi armed resistance, the officials said. That job currently is performed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, a three-star general.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing that he has discussed the proposal with Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and that "it may very well be that we will want to make an adjustment." But he said no final decision had been made.
Gen. John Abizaid, a four-star general who heads the U.S. Central Command, based in Qatar, is responsible for American military operations in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, the entire Gulf region and the Horn of Africa.
U.S. defense officials indicated that the possible new command structure would reduce the burden on Abizaid. Rumsfeld said Abizaid "has a large region" to oversee and a "whole host of things he has to think through."
"General Abizaid has other parts of the region that he's responsible for, and so it would make sense to put somebody of the right stature into Iraq to be able to deal with the Iraqi leadership," a senior U.S. defense official said.
"It's definitely a serious proposal," the official added.
The official said it was "way too early" to discuss which general might serve in the new position.
Rumsfeld said the proposal, first reported by The Washington Times, was among those on the table as U.S. officials seek to ensure that the transition to Iraqi self-rule "is as smooth as possible and that we have the right kinds of command structures, both civilian and military. And those things are under way and have been for some time."
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