Only Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, who commanded a military police unit found responsible for sexually humiliating prisoners, forcing them into stress positions and intimidating them with guard dogs, was relieved of her command, and is being recommended for a career-ending reprimand, defence officials said late on Friday.

 

However, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, who as commander of US forces in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004 had briefly issued a set of tough interrogation guidelines that some say had encouraged the abuse, was fully exonerated, according to the officials.

 

Investigations

 

The US investigation, completed by Army Inspector-General Lieutenant General Stanley Green, comes on the heels of a series of independent and internal Pentagon investigations undertaken since April 2004, when information about the pervasive abuse at Abu Ghraib leaked out to the media.

 

US President George Bush expressed shock at the reports, calling the abuses abhorrent. He insisted the treatment of inmates at the notorious Baghdad prison did not "represent the America that I know".

 

In the intervening months, seven rank-and-file soldiers who had been assigned to guard duty at Abu Ghraib were charged with physically and sexually abusing the detainees.

 

Five of them have already been found guilty or pleaded guilty, while two courts-martial are still pending.

 

Punishment escaped

 

But top US commanders in Iraq have largely escaped punishment despite allegations some of them might have tacitly encouraged soldiers to rough up prisoners in order to soften them before interrogation.

 

George Bush called the abuses at
Abu Ghraib prison abhorrent

The Green Report sought to address these concerns, but found fault only with Karpinski, who is accused of failing to provide proper oversight of her troops, the defence officials said.

 

Though not released to the public, the document is seen as the military's final word in the year-long saga that has tarnished the reputation of the US armed forces and fuelled multiple calls for the resignation of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

 

"The army is currently in the process of briefing members of Congress on the comprehensive results of an Inspector-General legal review of senior member involvement into Abu Ghraib," army spokeswoman Major Elizabeth Robbins said.

 

"We are currently not addressing questions on the findings until we have addressed the questions of Congress."

 

According to defence sources, the other officials cleared include Sanchez's former deputy, Major-General Walter Wojdakowski, who stood accused of failing to staff the prison with better trained guards, Major-General Barbara Fast - the former chief intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, and Colonel Marc Warren, the command's top legal officer.