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The Financial Times/UK

White House Struggles To Fill Senior Posts

Edward Luce

The Bush administration is facing growing difficulties in filling a rising number of high-level vacancies following a recent spate of senior departures.

In the last 10 days alone Mr Bush has lost four senior officials and more resignations are expected to follow. "I wouldn't describe this as disintegration," said one senior official. "But there are worrying large gaps opening up and it is very hard to recruit high-quality people from outside."

Recent departures include J.D. Crouch, the deputy head of the national security council, who wants to spend more time with his family, and Randall Tobias, the head of USAID, who resigned after it was revealed that he used a call girl agency for "legal" erotic services. Mr Bush has also lost Dina Habib Powell, the administration's most senior Arab-American, who is leaving the State Department to join the private sector, and Timothy Adams, the number three at the Treasury department.

Officials say that the flurry of departures is not unusual during the latter part of a second term and deny there are common themes driving their exits. But they come at a time when Mr Bush is having difficulty filling the new position of "war czar" to oversee the administration's prosecution of the war in Iraq.

Republican allies of the president, who are growing increasingly jittery about the rising number of American deaths in Iraq without signs that Washington's "new way forward" is working, have publicly questioned the rationale for such a job.

"The president is the top dog and he should announce policy and then it should be implemented," said John Bolton, who was forced to resign as the US ambassador to the United Nations in January. "The whole system of inter-departmental policy deliberation has broken down."

David Frum, a former speechwriter to Mr Bush, says Mr Bush's principal concern is that Iraq policy will increasingly be driven by a rebellious Congress and by army generals on the ground. Last week Mr Bush vetoed the Democratic Congress's Iraq spending bill because it attached a timeline for troop withdrawal. General David Petraeus, who heads US military operations in Iraq, has said the effects of the 30,000 troop "surge" will not be apparent until September. "The real concern is that the Bush administration is losing its ability to control Iraq policy," said Mr Frum.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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