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Bush chooses Pentagon official to be 'war czar' for Iraq, Afghanistan

Anxious to show progress to a nation weary of war, U.S. President George W. Bush is hoping a military leader with proven organizational skills can make the government's vast bureaucracy march in step in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush's selection of Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute as war czar does not bring the promise of a change in policy, speedier progress or an end to the fighting for U.S. troops. Instead, he is billed as a bureaucracy-buster.

Nothing is more important, Bush said Tuesday, than getting the commanders and ambassadors in the war zones what they need.

"Douglas Lute," Bush said, "can make sure that happens quickly and reliably."

Lute, 54, is the latest new face on the Iraq front. He serves as the Pentagon's director of operations and is a former leader of U.S. military forces in the Middle East, part of an extensive background of military service.

He now heads to the White House to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan - and nothing but - subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Lute's job will be to work through conflicts among the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies. He will seek to cut through bureaucracy and deliver fast responses when requests come in from U.S. military commanders and ambassadors.

"General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done," Bush said, capping a difficult search for new leadership in the wars that have defined his presidency.

In the newly created job 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. That, by design, gives the White House a high-level point person on the wars.

Meghan O'Sullivan, who handled day-to-day coordination of Iraq as an assistant to national security adviser Stephen Hadley, recently announced she is leaving. So is Hadley's chief deputy, J.D. Crouch, who coordinated the White House review of its options in Iraq.

It was a difficult job to fill, given the unpopularity of the war, now in its fifth year, and uncertainty about the clout the war coordinator would have. The search was complicated by demands from Congress to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and scant public support for the war. The White House tried for weeks to fill the position and approached numerous candidates before settling on Lute.

The creation of the new job has also raised questions about whether it will help - or just add more confusion.

One senior administration official dismissed that possibility. "His job is to work very closely with Steve Hadley, but everybody reports to the president," the official said, speaking anonymously to avoid getting ahead of the president.

The White House has avoided the term "war czar." Bush called Lute the "full-time manager" for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lute has been director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 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.

His addition will help Hadley, whose broad portfolio includes such hot spots as Iran and North Korea.

Until now, Hadley and other West Wing officials have tried to keep turf-conscious agencies marching in the same direction on military, political and reconstruction fronts in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the public's patience for the war has long eroded, and lawmakers - including members of Bush's own party - are pushing a harder line in ensuring that the Iraqi government is making progress toward self-governance.

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