WASHINGTON — President Bush has chosen Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the Pentagon’s director of operations, to oversee the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as a “war czar” after a long search for new leadership, administration officials said Tuesday.
In the newly created position, Lute would serve as an assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser, and would also maintain his military status and rank as a three-star general, according to a Pentagon official.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Bush had not yet made an announcement.
Creation of the new job comes as the administration tries to use a combat troop buildup in Iraq to bring a degree of calm so political reconciliation can take hold.
The White House has sought a war coordinator to eliminate conflicts among the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies — and to speak for the president at times.
The addition will help Stephen Hadley, Bush’s national security adviser, who monitors hot spots around the world.
Bush’s move is part of a lengthy reshuffling of war leaders. Yet critics have questioned whether a new coordinator will help so late in the Bush presidency or will instead add confusion in the chain of command.
The Bush administration has avoided the term “war czar.”
Lute’s title would be assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation.
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 U.S. Central Command, during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with other regions.
A West Point graduate, he has had an extensive military career.
From 1998 to 2000 he commanded the Second Cavalry Regiment at Fort Polk, La. He served next as the executive assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs for 14 months before joining the First Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany, as the assistant division commander. He also served in Kosovo for 6 months in 2002 before being assigned to U.S. European Command in January 2003.
After he is nominated by Bush, Lute must be approved by the Senate for his new position, a senior Defense official said Tuesday.
Lute is expected to remain a three-star general, a senior Defense official said late Tuesday.
Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates described the so-called “war czar” as someone that the U.S. commander in Iraq and the U.S. ambassador to that country could call when a government agency is not fulfilling its commitment.
“I sort of think of it as a 911 number for [Gen. David] Petraeus and [Ambassador Ryan] Crocker; somebody, when they're not getting the kind of responsiveness that they need out of other parts of the U.S. government, somebody operating out of the White House, empowered by the president, who can call up and say, ‘You were asked to provide this number of people with this kind of a specialty, and the president wants to know where they are,'” Gates told reporters on May 9.
Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report from the Pentagon.