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U.S. commander rotating out of Iraq

From Jamie McIntyre

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Plans to replace the top U.S. commander in Iraq are part of the "normal rotation," and are neither a vote of "no confidence" nor related to the investigation of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, Pentagon officials told CNN Monday.

Sources confirmed the Pentagon is looking for a replacement for Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who has served for 13 months as commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, the top U.S. command in Iraq.

A senior Pentagon official insisted Sanchez has "done everything right" in regard to the prison abuse scandal, and that his replacement is part of a long-term plan to transition to a new command structure after the June 30 handover to Iraqi sovereignty.

"There is no connection to the Abu Ghraib scandal," the official told CNN. "[Sanchez] did all the appropriate things with respect to the prison. As soon as it came to his attention, he launched a criminal investigation and asked for an administrative review at the highest levels."

Speculation about Sanchez's replacement has centered on Gen. George Casey, the Army Vice Chief of Staff. Pentagon officials would say only that they are not ready to make the name of Sanchez's replacement public.

"If we had something like that to announce we would. Any speculation prior to an announcement would be irresponsible," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

Whitman said replacing a three-star general with a four-star, as Casey is, is also no reflection on Sanchez.

"This is something that has been discussed since January," Whitman said.

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