ARLINGTON, Va. — One of the top commanders implicated in the Abu Ghraib scandal has been quietly handed a letter of reprimand, according to Army and congressional sources.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who led the 800th Military Police Brigade and the MPs who worked at Abu Ghraib, was issued the reprimand by Army vice chief of staff Gen. Dick Cody in recent weeks.

Karpinski was suspended from command duties after a series of high-level investigations accused her of sloppy leadership that contributed to problems of abuse at the infamous prison.

Karpinski’s attorney declined to comment.

It was unclear if additional punishment would be meted out against Karpinski, said officials.

“The real question now is whether there will be a relief for cause,” said one Army official close to the case, referring to permanent loss of command responsibilities.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, whose role in the abuse as the chief of intelligence in Iraq was questioned in some corners, has been exonerated of wrongdoing by Army investigators.

Those findings are now being briefed to congressional leaders.

Fast was reassigned to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., several months ago. With the formal investigations now wrapping up, Army leaders plan to install Fast as the commander of intelligence training there soon.

“The fact that she’s there at all,” said one Army official, “is a clear message that the Army leadership stands behind her.”

There are no clear messages, however, being sent on the fate of Fast’s boss in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

‘A certain reluctance’

Sanchez led all coalition forces in Iraq for more than a year after taking over the reins of V Corps on June 14, 2003. Sanchez rejoined his staff in Heidelberg, Germany, after handing off command duties in Iraq to Gen. George Casey on July 1.

With Sanchez’s two-year tour as commander of V Corps ending in a few months, it remains unclear what will happen to the Army’s top military official implicated in the scandal.

“No final decision will be made until the Army investigation is complete,” said one senior Defense Department official of Sanchez’s fate, but added “there is a certain reluctance to put him through another round of hearings again.”

Sanchez was grilled by congressional leaders in the wake of the scandal and would have to appear before the Senate again for confirmation to any new three- or four-star assignment. Unless nominated and approved for another assignment, Sanchez would be forced to retire. Through a spokesman in Germany, Sanchez declined to comment.

At least two top investigations have already laid some blame at Sanchez’s feet.

Sanchez and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walt Wojdakowski were criticized by several top-level military investigations into Abu Ghraib for failing to ensure proper oversight of the detention facility.

Lt. Gen. Anthony Jones, who led an investigation released in August, wrote that while Sanchez and his leadership cadre “did not commit the abuse at Abu Ghraib they did bear responsibility for lack of oversight of the facility, failing to respond in a timely manner to the reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross and for issuing policy memos that failed to provide clear, consistent guidance for execution at the tactical level.”

Former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, which led another investigation also released in August, arrived at the same conclusion.

Another investigation is due out this week.

Full reckoning

Vice Adm. Albert Church is expected to brief congressional leaders on his findings Thursday.

Church, the Navy’s Inspector General, was ordered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to provide a broad-based review of all the investigations into detainee operations and address areas not covered by those reports.

Army investigations into the culpability of specific leaders are wrapping up as well.

And while Church was not directly tasked with addressing the question of leadership accountability, the topic is sure to be raised in the hearings.

“The accountability question is critical and continues to be,” said one senior Senate staffer. Indeed, senators on both sides of the aisle — led by John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I. — have demanded a full reckoning for senior leaders and have raised eyebrows at the fact that, so far, only junior enlisted soldiers have faced formal charges from the military.

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