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President Bush Revamps Iraq Team Before Policy Changes

President Bush shifted several key administration officials related to Iraq policy Friday, days before he was expected to unveil a new war strategy to the American public.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF, NewsHour Special Correspondent:

    Some of the pieces of President Bush's shifting Iraq policy puzzle fell into place today, with a few critical personnel announcements.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate Ambassador John Negroponte to be our next deputy secretary of state and Vice Admiral Mike McConnell to be America's next director of national intelligence.


    The president will move National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, a veteran diplomat, back to the State Department to serve as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy, a spot vacant since July.


    I have asked John Negroponte to serve in this vital position at this crucial moment. John Negroponte's broad experience, sound judgment, and expertise on Iraq and in the war on terror make him to — make him a superb choice as deputy secretary of state. And I look forward to working with him in this new post.


    Negroponte has filled central posts in the president's foreign policy apparatus. He served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the contentious run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion and later was ambassador to Baghdad.

    The man the president has nominated to be the new national intelligence director, Navy Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, has more than 25 years experience as an intelligence, operations and security officer.


    He served as director of the National Security Agency during the 1990s. He was the intelligence officer for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the liberation of Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm.

    Admiral McConnell has decades of experience, ensuring that our military forces had the intelligence they need to fight and win wars.


    There were also important changes announced across the Potomac River at the Pentagon. In a written statement, the defense secretary, Robert Gates, announced his intention to shift the top two military commanders of the Iraq war.

    Gates is recommending Navy Admiral William Fallon, currently the head of the Pacific Command, to replace Army General John Abizaid as Centcom commander, in charge of U.S. troops in the Middle East and South Asia.

    And Army three-star General David Petraeus would earn his fourth star in replacing the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, if Gates' recommendations are accepted by the president.

    Petraeus led the 101st Airborne Division during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and later oversaw efforts to train Iraqi security forces.

    General Casey was recommended to become Army chief of staff. He would replace General Peter Schoomaker, who is retiring. Those changes come just over three weeks after Secretary of Defense Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld, a chief architect of the war in Iraq.

    And it has been widely reported that the president will nominate the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, to head the U.S. mission to the United Nations. Khalilzad would replace John Bolton, whose recess appointment expired in December.

    The Baghdad post would in turn be filled by the current ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker. He recently led U.S. efforts in Pakistan after a deadly earthquake killed more than 73,000 people. During Crocker's 35-year diplomatic career, he has served as ambassador to Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon.

    All of these nominations still require Senate approval. The president is expected to address the nation next week about changes in troop levels and overall strategy in Iraq.

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