White House Shuffles Its Leaders on Iraq, Security President Bush says it is "vital" that Congress quickly confirm the changes he has made to his national security team. With new commanders and new policies in the works for Iraq, the White House seems to be clearing the decks at home as well, with a number of top-level personnel changes.

White House Shuffles Its Leaders on Iraq, Security

White House Shuffles Its Leaders on Iraq, Security

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6730822/6730823" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Musical Chairs: Mike McConnell (right), is to become director of National Intelligence. The job is being vacated by John Negroponte (center) who is leaving to become Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy. Jay L. Clendenin/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Jay L. Clendenin/Getty Images

President Bush says it is "vital" that Congress quickly confirm the changes he has made to his national security team. John Negroponte is stepping aside as intelligence chief in order to take the No. 2 position at the State Department.

The president has nominated retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell to replace Negroponte as the nation's spy chief.

With new commanders and new policies in the works for Iraq, the White House seems to be clearing the decks at home as well, with a number of top-level personnel changes, from a new director of national intelligence and a new U.N. ambassador to a new Iraq ambassador and a new second-in-command at the State Department.

In a shift at U.S. Central Command, the regional command base for operations that include Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush has named Adm. William Fallon to replace the retiring Gen. John Abizaid.

The White House also says that it has found a replacement for John Bolton, whose recess-appointment to the post of U.N. ambassador has expired. President Bush is nominating Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy to Iraq, for the post.

The personnel shifts even include the president's lawyer: Harriet Miers, who had a short-lived bid for the Supreme Court, is also being replaced.

Michele Norris talks with NPR's David Greene.

Bush Reshuffles Diplomatic, Military Teams for Iraq

Amb. John Negroponte
Alex Wong/Getty Images

John D. Negroponte steps down as the nation's first director of national intelligence to become top deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Education: B.A., Yale University.

Experience: Director of national intelligence, April 2005-present; served in the 1980s and '90s as ambassador to Iraq, the United Nations, the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras and as deputy national security adviser and deputy assistant secretary of state, East Asian and Pacific affairs, in the 1980s.

Read more about Negroponte.

Ret. Adm. John M. McConnell
Jay L. Clendenin/Getty Images

Retired Navy Vice Admiral John M. (Mike) McConnell is President Bush's choice to be the next director of national intelligence.

Education: B.A. in economics, Furman University; M.P.A. in government and public administration, George Washington University; M.A., the National Defense University; Ph.D., Industrial College of the Armed Forces and the Defense Intelligence College.

Experience: Senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, 1996-present; director of the National Security Agency, 1992-1996; intelligence officer during Operation Desert Storm, 1990-1992; commissioned as a Navy officer in 1967.

Read more about McConnell.

Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty Images

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is expected to be President Bush's choice to become envoy to the United Nations, replacing John Bolton.

Education: B.A. and M.A., the American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Ph.D., University of Chicago.

Experience: U.S. ambassador to Iraq, June 2005-present; U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Nov. 2003-June 2005; served on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush; assistant deputy under secretary of defense under President George H.W. Bush, 1991-1992.

Read more about Khalilzad.

Amb. Ryan Crocker
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, is expected to replace Khalilzad as ambassador to Iraq.

Education: B.A. in English, Whitman College.

Experience: U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Nov. 2004-present; first director of governance for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, Iraq, May-Aug. 2003; deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, Aug. 2001-May 2003; ambassador to Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon (1990-2001).

Read more about Crocker.

Adm. William J. Fallon
Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP/Getty Images

Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, the top U.S. military officer in the Pacific, is expected to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees all military operations in the Middle East.

Education: Bachelor's degree, Villanova University; M.A. in international studies, Old Dominion University.

Experience: Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, 2005-present; commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Oct. 2003-Feb. 2005; 31st vice chief of Naval Operations, Oct. 2000- Aug. 2003; commander, Second Fleet and commander, Striking Fleet Atlantic, Nov. 1997-Sept. 2000.

Read more about Fallon.

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus
Brent Stirton/Getty Images

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus is expected to replace Gen. George W. Casey Jr. as the top U.S. military commander in Iraq.

Education: B.S., United States Military Academy; M.P.A. in international relations, Princeton University; Ph.D. in international relations, Princeton University.

Experience: Commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Oct. 2005-present; first commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq, June 2004-Sept. 2005; commander of NATO Training Mission in Iraq, Oct. 2004-Sept. 2005; commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), July 2002-May 2004; deployed on Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia, June 2001-July 2002.

Read more about Petraeus.

In a high-level reshuffling of his Iraq team, President Bush on Friday announced replacements for many of the top officials responsible for war policy. The changes come as Mr. Bush prepares to unveil a new strategy — expected next week — for a war that has become deeply unpopular at home.

Major Changes in Areas of Diplomacy and Intelligence

The personnel changes start with John Negroponte, who will give up his post as the nation's first director of national intelligence, a job created by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11 to coordinate the country's 16 spy agencies. During his 20 months on the job, he's received mixed reviews.

Negroponte leaves to become the top deputy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is a step down from the Cabinet-level post of spy chief, though he cast it as a homecoming of sorts.

"It will be a great privilege for me to come home to the department where I began my career and rejoin a community of colleagues whose work is so important," Negroponte said, after the president nominated him for the State Department job.

Negroponte has deep roots in the State Department and has served as ambassador to, among other places, the United Nations and post-U.S. invasion Iraq. His portfolio at the State Department will include overseeing policy for Iraq and North Korea. Analysts say Negroponte will be a diplomatic heavyweight for Secretary Rice, who has been lacking a deputy since last July.

The man Mr. Bush has tapped to replaced Negroponte is retired Navy Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, who directed the National Security Agency from 1992 top 1996 and also served as an intelligence adviser under the first President Bush. McConnell spent more than 25 years in the intelligence community. For the past decade, he has worked at the firm of Booz Allen Hamilton, directing its consulting efforts in military intelligence for the Pentagon.

Bush said he was confident that McConnell would give him "the best information and analysis that America's intelligence community can provide."

New Envoys for Iraq, U.N.

President Bush is also expected to name the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, as his envoy to the United Nations. An Afghan-born Sunni Muslim, Khalilzad has been a very public figure, trying to push for reconciliation among Iraqi sects and factions. He's likely to be replaced by career diplomat Ryan Crocker, the current ambassador to Pakistan, who also has experience in post-Saddam Hussein Baghdad.

Analyst Daniel Serwer of the U.S. Institute of Peace served as executive director of the Iraq Study Group. He says Khalilzad will try to work with the United Nations for more international help. And he says he expects Negroponte to bring a realistic, hard-nosed assessment of Iraq to the State Department.

Serwer says the diplomatic shuffling has created a strong team. But he says the real test will be what sort of diplomatic strategy President Bush puts forward.

"If you don't put a strategy forward with a strong diplomatic component," Serwar says, "having Zal [Khalilzad] at the U.N., or Negroponte as deputy secretary [of state] is going to make a whole lot less difference."

The Iraq Study Group, an independent, bi-partisan committee established by Congress to study the current situation, recommended a big diplomatic push to reach out to Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, something the Bush administration has been reluctant to do so far.

New Generals in Iraq

Whatever new direction the president unveils for Iraq, it will be carried out by new commanders.

Mr. Bush is nominating Navy Adm. William Fallon to replace Gen. John Abizaid as the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations across the Middle East. The choice of Fallon is surprising: A naval officer with little experience in the Middle East, he will be leading two ground wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, Fallon brings to the table a great deal of combat experience: A trained fighter pilot, he served in Vietnam and in the 1990 Gulf War. He is one of nine U.S. combatant commanders in the world and is currently the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific Rim. In some ways, the move to CENTCOMM is a lateral move, though the job is more visible.

Far less surprising is the president's choice for the top ground commander in Iraq: Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. A rising star among the senior military brass, Petraeus commanded the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Iraq, and later led efforts to train Iraqi security forces. Petraeus would replace Gen. George Casey, who would become Army chief of staff, the Pentagon said Friday.

In 2003 and early 2004, Petraeus was fairly successful in tamping down violence in Mosul using unconventional methods. In one famous raid in late 2003, Petraeus' forces arrested some three dozen insurgents firing just a single shot. But Petraeus' achievements proved difficult to replicate elsewhere in Iraq.

Analysts say the new generals are not likely to oppose an increase in the level of U.S. troops in Iraq — something many believe President Bush will propose as part of his revised Iraq strategy.

Mr. Bush is expected to call for an increase of 10,000 to 20,000 ground forces, by extending the stay of troops already in Iraq and accelerating the scheduled deployment of new forces.