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Top U.S. General Will Step Down

Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command and the military chief of the Iraq fiasco, will retire in March. Though officials say Abizaid tendered his retirement before Rumsfeld was pushed out, his departure will allow Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Bush more flexibility in their Iraq makeover, as Abizaid has been a dogged opponent of increasing troop levels.


Los Angeles Times:

Abizaid has been the primary architect of U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan since becoming head of the U.S. Central Command more than three years ago. He has strenuously resisted calls to increase troop levels to quell rising violence in Baghdad, arguing it would increase Iraqi dependence on Americans.

But a growing number of current and former officers have embraced the idea, some of whom have briefed President Bush as part of his monthlong review of Iraq policy, and the White House is believed to be considering the move.

“If you’re going to change the strategy, in fairness to [Abizaid], let him go,” said a former senior Pentagon official who has worked closely with the general. “He’s given it all he’s got, in terms of personal sacrifice.”

Abizaid’s planned departure clears the way for new Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to recommend his own commander, a decision current and former Defense officials say is nearly as important as the new administration strategy expected to be unveiled by Bush in January.

These officials said Gates faces a clear choice between generals who have agreed with Abizaid’s push to quickly hand over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces and a small but increasingly influential coterie of officers backing a more aggressive U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign.

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