After a frustrating search for a new “war czar” to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ABC News has learned that President Bush has chosen the Pentagon’s director of operations, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, for the role.
In the newly created position of assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation, Lute would have the power to direct the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies involved in the two conflicts.
Lute would report directly to the president and to National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
Filling the position had become a priority for the White House, after a handful of retired generals told the White House they did not want the job. Among them, retired Marine Corps four-star Gen. Jack Sheehan, who proved an embarrassment to the White House after he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post saying there were “huge shortcomings” in the White House view of the strategy in Iraq.
The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.
Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.
He said: “We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.
“You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.”
While he cautioned that any troop reduction would be conditional on continued political progress and ongoing improvement in Iraqi force training, he said Centcom planners believed “the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see, by some political machinations, the Sunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December”.
And that was in 2005. I remember when the goal was to get the Iraqis to be less dependent. I remember being told how it was working and that anyone doubting was an America-hater.