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Bush Iraq War Adviser Concerned About Iraq Government Capabilities

President Bush's nominee to be special adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan says he is concerned about the Iraqi government's capacity for political reconciliation. Lieutenant General Douglas Lute also told a Senate confirmation hearing that there have been mixed results so far from the U.S. troop surge in Iraq. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

President Bush nominated General Lute to serve as deputy national security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan to help coordinate war efforts across the government and improve implementation of the president's policies.

At the general's Senate confirmation hearing, Armed Services Committee chairman, Democrat Carl Levin asked him about doubts he expressed before President Bush's January 10 speech announcing the troop surge. The general said it is still not clear to him the strategy will work.

"I would assess at this point that the Iraqi participation in the surge has been uneven so far, and I think we are in the early days and time will tell," he said.

Lute also confirmed that he had expressed concerns that a military surge would likely have only temporary and localized effects unless there were greater efforts by the Iraqi government and non-military U.S. agencies.

He said two other concerns are how to eliminate the perception of the U.S. military presence as an occupation, and how Iraqi security forces can avoid becoming overly dependent on U.S. forces.

Lute said political reconciliation is the only solution for Iraq, and he voiced concerns that Iraqi government leaders have the capacity to accomplish this.

"The question in my mind is not to what extent can we force them or lever them to a particular outcome, but rather to what degree do they actually have the capacity themselves to produce that outcome and if produced or if pressed too hard, will we in turn end up with an outcome that isn't really worth the paper it is written on," he said.

Asked if there should be consequences if Iraqi leaders don't meet specific benchmarks, Lute said this should be part of future policy considerations but added he has reservations about how much pressure can be applied on a system that is not very capable right now.

In his own questioning, Republican Senator John Warner said he is concerned about the level of Iraqi military cooperation with the U.S. troop surge.

"I personally, just speaking for myself, am not entirely satisfied with the measure of their participation in this surge. We hear reports now that their units are rolling over [rotating] in a period of 90 days when our troops are there for a year or more?," he said.

In later questioning, General Lute sought to clarify his remarks on the Iraqi government, saying that while he is concerned he is not yet convinced Iraqi leaders are incapable or unwilling to take the necessary steps for political reconciliation that could break the cycle of violence in Iraq.

And he says he does not believe that Congressional debate over timelines for U.S. troop reductions "undercut the morale" of U.S. troops.