WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush, ending a lengthy search, chose Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute on Tuesday to serve as the White House “war czar” for Iraq and Afghanistan.
If confirmed by the Senate, Lute, 54, will take on the top role of coordinating policy in the unpopular war in Iraq, against a backdrop of rising Democratic criticism and the failure so far of a troop buildup to halt Baghdad violence that is leading to more American casualties.
A senior administration official said Lute will become Bush’s deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation, a position that will carry a beefed-up role.
Lute has been director of operations of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. He will report directly to the president and will work closely with Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley.
Lute’s appointment followed a search in which some of the candidates were reported to have turned down White House offers for the position.
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 high-powered position.
They were said to have expressed concerns about the administration’s problems in convincing top recruits to join the team after five years of warfare.
“The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going,” retired Marine Gen. John J. “Jack” Sheehan, who rejected the job, told The Post at the time.
“So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, ‘No, thanks,’” Sheehan said.
As a three-star general who is changing jobs, Lute will need Senate confirmation for the new position, the White House said.