Named for the position by President George W. Bush on May 15, 2007, Lute is "charged with coordinating the efforts of the Executive Branch to support our commanders and senior diplomats on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Lute, who will act as Bush's "pointman", "ending a frustrated search for a 'war czar'," will serve under National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, "who said he wanted somebody who would focus full time on Iraq and Afghanistan, doing what he would do if he had the time to do it." 
Ed Henry, speaking on CNN's Situation Room, commented "It’s striking that the President did not publicly introduce Gen. Lute, choosing instead to announce the appointment via a written press release. Normally for a high-profile appointment, the President would make a big splash, raising questions about just how much clout this appointee will have."
"As if it isn’t bad enough to start a job not knowing what your responsibilities will be, Lute gets to look forward to having his name discredited every time the president makes a mistake. I don’t think it’s a matter of if Lute will be fired before Bush’s term ends, I think it’s a matter of when," blogger Gary Graca commented May 15, 2007, in the Michigan Daily. "Poor guy. At least you can keep a little bit of dignity when you sell kitchen knives."
- 1 Question of effectiveness
- 2 Wrong in 2005
- 3 Right in 2005
- 4 The "enemy" is "Islamic extremism"
- 5 Using information warfare to fight "bin Ladenism" and AQAM
- 6 Strategy for fighting the enemy (November 2006)
- 7 On not catching Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora
- 8 Experience
- 9 Resources and articles
Question of effectiveness
Lute, 54, currently serving as director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "was selected after several prominent retired generals turned down offers or overtures to become the White House's 'war czar'. ... [Lute] has been a three star general only since September , but he has deep experience in the Middle East and was heavily involved in the planning for the current 'surge' of US troops to Iraq." 
"Some questioned how effective a three star general would be in managing a war effort from the White House amid four star military commanders and cabinet secretaries." 
Wrong in 2005
Al Qaeda will retreat to Africa
Speaking of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born Islamist who "claimed responsibility for numerous attacks, kidnappings and beheadings", Lute said "There will come a time when Zarqawi will face too much resistance in Iraq and will move on." Lute predicted that Zarqawi "would take the 'path of least resistance' and leave for such countries as Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia." 
Used old "Rumsfeldian dependency theory" for an imminent exit from Iraq
On August 23, 2005, Lute, then Director of Operations at U.S. Central Command and "the general responsible for near-term planning" in Iraq, said that the US was "expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence" and that "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." Lute also "denied the withdrawal was motivated by political pressure from Washington." 
Only the week before, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, then Army chief of staff, said "his office was planning for the possibility that troop levels could be maintained until 2009. But Maj Gen Lute said such a worst-case scenario was unlikely. ... 'I will tell you this, as the operation officer of Centcom, if a year from now I've got to call on all those army troops that Gen Schoomaker is prepared to provide, I won't feel real good about myself'." 
In July 2005, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., then commander of allied forces in Iraq, made similar comments on "reductions that could come by early  but they were quickly played down by the White House." 
William Kristol, writing September 5, 2005, in The Weekly Standard, said that Lute was "still speaking" from old talking points by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld—that "we were seeking to draw down troops over the next year in Iraq"—and ignoring what President George W. Bush had said a week before. ... Indeed, he seemed eager to proclaim this—and made the case for withdrawal based on Rumsfeldian dependency theory: '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.'"
Lance Knobel commented August 25, 2005, at Davos Newbies Blog: "When you actually read what [Lute] says, it is hedged in a bunch of ways: it depends on improvements in Iraqi forces, on the Sunnis being engaged in the political process, on successful elections. In other words, it’s contingent on just about everything going right in a place where just about everything is going wrong."
Iraqi insurgency "90% home grown"
Lute was wrong in 2005 regarding the abilities of the Iraqi troops, and wrong about how long the process to develop an Iraqi fighting force would take, and wrong again about the true nature of the "insurgency".
- LUTE: ... this goes very much to our primary effort for 2005 and that is to enhance the quality of Iraqi forces. ... seven months ago there was no Iraqi army, there were no Iraqi commando battalions. There was very little that could be called an Iraqi police force. We've made a great deal of progress in the last seven months. But this is still an immature emerging force. Things like infiltration by insurgents, things like sharing intelligence, developing their own intelligence, and developing a coherent chain of command are all things that we're working on for this calendar year.
- ZAHN: So how long do you think it will take for those troops to operate at a level that you would consider satisfactory?
- LUTE: ... the most capable Iraqi formations are already operating independently at battalion level, this is 5 to 600 soldiers operating independently sometimes also operating on their own developed intelligence. So on the one end of the spectrum we have very capable Iraqi forces, some today. But not enough to sustain the fight against the counterinsurgency country-wide. That process will take all of calendar '05 and probably into calendar year '06.
In late August 2005, Lute said that "the long war amounts to an offensive from the Horn of Africa to the borders of Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda and its affiliated terror organisations do not find a safe haven once they are forced out of their current bases."
Lute and his CENTCOM "counterparts" argued that the Iraqi insurgency, which was "90 per cent home-grown - may prove a short-term challenge, but the growing threat from a loosely affiliated network of extremists runs the risk of causing more damage in the region, indeed worldwide."
Lute's comments have been compared to those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who continue to "conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those 'making a stand in Iraq'." Likewise, Bush and Cheney "routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddam's W.M.D.'s."
Iraqis willing to "step up"
In a January 28, 2005, interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn, on the eve of the first Iraqi elections, Zahn asked:
- ZAHN: "General, you now have the top American commander in the field, General Casey, saying he is not confident that Iraqi security forces can defeat the insurgents. What does that mean for U.S. troops?"
- LUTE: "The elections are not going to be sort of the silver bullet that defuse the insurgency. It will persist thereafter.
- "So, immediately, I don't think there's going to be any change in what we see in Iraq in terms of the role of the U.S. forces. But, increasingly, in 2005, I think we can all expect that we will find that our Iraqi security force partners will begin to step up to the point where they overtake us and assume the lead in the counterinsurgency."
Lute repeated much the same thing after the elections in a February 9, 2005, interview with Zahn. Lute was asked about the impact of the first Iraqi elections on the population, to which Lute answered:
- "Well, first of all, it suggests that there's no immediate impact. That is that the elections themselves were not a silver bullet or a panacea that we were going to solve the insurgency. The other thing it suggests to me, Paula, is just the bravery and the incredible willingness to step forward on the election day itself which we witnessed by millions of Iraqis moving to the polling places. And further more, the support by the brother Iraqis, the security forces, in securing over 5,000 election places. It suggests to me in sum that it's still a dangerous place, but the Iraqis have demonstrated they are willing to step up. They deserve our respect and our support for that."
Although the Pentagon "has never publicly asserted that drug profits from Afghanistan's bustling opium and heroin production find their way to al Qaeda," Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough wrote September 9, 2005, "[o]fficials with a different opinion say that if the Defense Department made that link, it would get unwanted pressure to play a direct role in counternarcotics missions, such as raiding labs."
Lute, they wrote, "followed the company line in a recent talk at the U.S. Embassy in London. 'We don't have hard intelligence or hard factual evidence that there's a clear link between the narcotics business and Afghanistan and extremists'," Lute said.
However, Gertz and Scarborough wrote that this "conflicts with the assessment of other officials, including Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican. Mr. Kirk, who has made fact-finding trips to the region and talked with intelligence officials, has said al Qaeda is reaping millions of dollars from the drug trade. The money is funding Osama bin Laden's life on the run, he said.
"Robert Charles, until recently the State Department's top counternarcotics official, has a similar view," they wrote. Charles "says Afghanistan's poppy crop went from 152,000 acres in 2003 to 515,000 acres in 2004, producing $7 billion in drug money ... [with] a substantial amount of anecdotal evidence that bad guys of every stripe are getting this money."
Right in 2005
Success to come from a "political outcome"
Lute told reporters during a visit to London in August 2005 that "Everything in a counterinsurgency has to do with the political outcome, not the military outcome."
The "enemy" is "Islamic extremism"
"At the core of Washington's new geostrategy is the explicit acknowledgment that its enemy is not 'terrorism' in general, but 'Islamic extremism'," Michael A. Weinstein wrote November 11, 2005, in Asia Times. Lute, then CENTCOM director of operations, which then had military responsibility for the entire arc of instability, said in August 2005, in "order to fight that enemy with any effectiveness", the "US had embarked on a 'long war' that - all else being equal - would become the dominant US military engagement once - as Washington hopes - Afghanistan and Iraq were stabilized."
Using information warfare to fight "bin Ladenism" and AQAM
In a February 14, 2006, interview with the Wall Street Journal, Lute cited the Quadrennial Defense Review, "which reveals long-term military planning, which shows a top brass [Lute] worried about the ideology of hate preached by imams across the Islamic world. This ideology, though twisted, is somewhat coherent and calls for using terrorism to create a 'caliphate,' a unified Islamic state, stretching from Afghanistan and Iran all the way to Spain and including most of North Africa. For a lack of a better term, some American military planners call this ideology 'bin Ladenism'," Lute said.
Lute "noted that bin Ladenism has deep roots in many Islamic countries and that bin Laden isn't the only terrorist leader trying to appeal to populations oppressed by dictators. There are some 18 terrorist organizations that are part of what the military calls al Qaeda and Affiliated Movement. The military, he said, even has an acronym for it: AQAM.
- Note: The only online reference to "al Qaeda and Affiliated Movement" (AQAM) comes from this reference by Lute.
"To counter bin Ladenism, the military is planning a two-stage war. The first is being fought in open battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere and looks a lot like the kind of war most Americans assumed we'd wage on al Qaeda and terror-sponsoring states after the Sept. 11 attacks. The second stage is what senior military planners--including [Secretary of Defense] Rumsfeld--call 'the Long War.' It involves countering one set of ideas with another," Lute said. 
This latter stage is information warfare. Lute points to Rumsfeld, who reminded journalists in the audience at the National Press Club "that al Qaeda and its affiliates have 'media relation committees.' 'Think of that--they get up in the morning, have committee meetings and think about how they're going to manipulate the world's press to their advantage,' [Rumsfeld] said. It's not just that al Qaeda members watch CNN or the Fox News Channel for tactical information, but they have 'proven to be highly successful at manipulating the world's media here in this country.'"
Strategy for fighting the enemy (November 2006)
Military "one fight deep"
- "With roughly 145,000 U.S. soldiers currently in Iraq and a total of 225,000 Americans stationed in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, the military has had to accept risk elsewhere, Lute said. . . .
- "Accordingly, this strategy has left the service 'sort of one fight deep,' he added, and even though the country has the best Air Force and Navy in the world, they alone will not 'suffice' if the unexpected occurs."
"best HUMINT" from "interrogation process"
- "'It's curious to me that, at the five-year mark in this war, we still get our best HUMINT not from the conventional HUMINT technique -- that is, by sending agents in to penetrate their networks -- but rather by slicing up parts, small bits, of their network and detaining those guys and getting the HUMINT as part of the interrogation process' ...
- "Although such interrogations have provided the United States and its allies with critical intel, Lute said the main disadvantage of relying on this means of intelligence gathering is time.
- "More specifically, he said, the military obtains from suspects only what they know and when they learned it. 'Every day he's detained it becomes less and less valuable, and that's not adequate HUMINT for the long war'."
Lute said "'It's a clumsy way to do [human intelligence], and it is not very effective.' He said the military is hindered by a lack of language and cultural expertise."
No "outright military victory"
Lute "cautioned against expecting an outright military victory. He projected it could take 15 years for the U.S. and its allies to defeat the terrorists."
Fight the terror network on the internet so we don't have to fight them here
Lute said "You need a network to defeat a network", a concept "key to winning against al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Lute stated that "al-Qaida is a networked organization but that 'our organization is still the same as before the war and it is insufficient to defeat the enemy.'
"The terror network, Lute said, consists of tangible assets, such as training camps, weapons and personnel, as well as intangible aspects"—"primarily of its use of the Internet as a tool to conduct communications, training, and command and control"—which "'defy a conventional approach'."
"They have a safe haven on the Internet," Lute said. "No one in the U.S. military has been tasked with the mission of attacking these intangibles. Until we do they will operate with impunity" and, "[as] long as that situation prevails, ... the United States and its coalition allies will not be able to vanquish the terrorist enemy."
Lute argued: "The enemy is targeting the political will of this country, ... He knows he can’t beat us on the battlefield and he is OK with that."
Large numbers of troops not needed
"The presence of large numbers of U.S. personnel in Iraq is not necessary to achieve Lute’s vision," he said in his speech. "'It’s bad news for the U.S. and for Iraq, ... because it extends the perception of an occupation.' ... Instead, Lute advocated the use of small teams that advise local operators."
"This war," Lute said, "is more about will and perception than firepower ... We have concluded that, in that sense, we are not equipped to attack the enemy. We must attack the intangible part of the network if we are going to win.'"
On not catching Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora
In his January 2006 response on The Charlie Rose Show when asked whether, "if we had done more at Tora Bora we could have gotten" Osama bin Laden, Lute said "you only have to walk the ground in Afghanistan near Tora bora or anyplace in the Hindu Kush region, to appreciate what a tough call that is ... to suggest... that you could get one individual in a evolving, fluid, rapidly evolving fight in ground that's that rugged." 
"Think of the most rugged portions of the Rocky Mountains here in the states where we go on ski vacations. This is where that fight took place, at altitudes where [our] helicopters were stressed, where the physical stresses on the soldiers were extreme and where the fight continued for days, both day and night. So it's not entirely surprising to me that one individual could escape that kind of contact," Lute said.
Lute served as operations director of U.S. Central Command from 2004 to September 2006, "overseeing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He ran US military operations in the Levant during [the 2006] fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon." 
"In June 2004, he began more than two years as Director of Operations (J-3) at US Central Command during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa. He assumed duties as Director of Operations, the Joint Staff, in September 2006." 
Resources and articles
- "Senate confirms Bush war czar ," Agence France Presse (The Raw Story), June 28, 2007.
- White House news release, May 15, 2007.
- "Improving National Capacity to Respond to Complex Emergencies. The U.S. Experience," A Report to the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, Carnegie Corporation of New York, April 1988.