Bush names 'war tsar' for Iraq

General appointed to co-ordinate policy after several others turned down the job.

    Lute has said the US must banish the appearance of occupation in Iraq that may hinder progress [Reuters]
    The president created the position to co-ordinate the policies of sometimes competing agencies, including the Pentagon and the state department, and try to implement George Bush's war strategy.
    A senior administration official said Lute, as deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation, will report directly to the president and will work closely with Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.
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    The appointment, which is subject to senate confirmation, is part of a lengthy reshuffling of war leaders, but critics have said Bush was abdicating the role himself and questioned whether a new co-ordinator will help so late in his presidency, saying it may even add confusion in the chain of command.
    Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and co-founder of a political group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, VoteVets.org, said: "It's now up to Lieutenant-General Lute to undo the president's failed policies in Iraq, and bring a heavy dose of diplomacy in the region, so we can begin to get our troops out of the Iraqi religious civil war."
    Turned down
    The Washington Post reported on April 11 that at least three retired four-star generals had been approached by the White House, but all declined to be considered for the job over concern at the direction of the war.
    Retired General John Sheehan, who rejected the job, told the Post at the time: "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going.
    "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks'"

    John Sheehan, retired general
    who rejected the job

    "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks'."
    Lute became director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September.
    Before that, he served for more than two years as director of operations at US Central Command, during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other regions. He is also a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.
    Lute has given past clues that he would seek a political outcome to the Iraq conflict as sought by Democrats frustrated at the Iraqi government's struggles with political reconciliation.
    In 2005, he said the US must not hesitate to hand over to the Iraqi military when it is ready and banish the appearance of occupation that may hinder political progress.
    "You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. And it's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus ... foreign troops occupying the country, or in that country."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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