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Two key specialists on the Afghan war are leaving the Obama administration, National Journal reports.Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, currently the White House point man on Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Frederick Hodges, head of the Pentagon’s Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell, are both stepping down now that the administration has finalised its short-term policy for combat troop withdrawals.
Lute, probably the president’s closest adviser on the Afghan war, has been one of the most consistently pragmatic voices in the White House in recent years, arguing against the troop levels requested by generals for the 2009 surge, and, more recently, siding with Vice President Joe Biden’s call for a speedier drawdown of troops.
Lute was hired as an all-encompassing “war czar” by President George W. Bush in 2007, and was kept on by an Obama administration that lacked close ties with the military community.
“He is one of the few generals who has felt not only heard but understood by this White House,” Thomas Ricks wrote on his Foreign Policy blog yesterday.
The White House may have trouble finding a replacement for Lute in a time of increasing strain on the war effort and decreasing public and congressional support.
The two resignations come just days before the Obama war cabinet is set to undergo its most dramatic change yet. The retirement of defence Secretary Robert Gates becomes effective Thursday. He will be replaced by current CIA head Leon Panetta, who will himself be replaced Gen. David Petraeus, currently head of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
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