General Discusses Goals Of His Return To Iraq

November 20th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: General Discusses Goals Of His Return To Iraq

New York Times
November 20, 2006
By Thom Shanker
FORT HOOD, Tex., Nov. 13 — Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who returns to Iraq next month to take charge of the day-to-day fight as commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq, says he departs for Baghdad with a clearer, perhaps even diminished, set of expectations of what the military can be expected to accomplish now, more than three years after the invasion.
“You have to define win, and I think everybody has a different perspective on winning,” General Odierno said during an interview at the Army’s III Corps headquarters here.
“I would argue that with Saddam Hussein no longer in power in Iraq, that is a partial win,” he said. “I think what we need is an Iraqi government that is legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi population, an Iraq that is able to protect itself and not be a safe haven for terror. That’s what I think winning is.”
As a bugle sounded across Fort Hood with the call to lower the flag at dusk, General Odierno paused, and added, “Notice I left out a few things, such as a democracy in the sense that we see a democracy in the United States. We have to allow them to shape their own democracy, the type of democracy that fits them and their country.”
It has become a truism of the war in Iraq that there can be no military victory without a political solution, which requires the coordinated efforts of the entire United States government and of the Iraqi one, as well.
“The longer we stay in Iraq, the less of a military fight it becomes,” the general said. “We have to understand that.”
General Odierno has spent the past several months preparing for his new command, assigning his staff several histories of counterinsurgency efforts in Malaya, Algeria and Vietnam; meeting with academic experts on the Middle East and Islamist terrorism; and holding sessions with officers from the other armed services and from the Iraqi ground forces, with whom he will be working.
He outwardly carries the lessons — and the private, internal scars — from his first tour, at both the professional and personal levels.
General Odierno commanded the Fourth Infantry Division as insurgents carried out three-quarters of their attacks nationwide in his area of north-central Iraq, which included Saddam Hussein’s volatile home region of Tikrit.
It also was on his watch that a Special Operations task force and conventional troops under his command captured Mr. Hussein, producing a briefly shining moment in which the counterinsurgency effort appeared to be gaining traction.
But insurgency, terrorism and factional violence verging on civil war have continued.
He has felt criticism from some officers, especially among marines, that made it into the public debate via op-ed columns and books by noted military affairs writers, including “Cobra II,” by Michael R. Gordon of The New York Times and Bernard E. Trainer; and “Fiasco,” by Thomas E. Ricks of The Washington Post.
The Fourth Infantry Division focused too much on traditional combat operations in 2003 and 2004, the critics argued, saying that those efforts, with an emphasis on capturing and killing adversary fighters rather than on rebuilding the country and winning the confidence of Iraqis, actually fueled the insurgency.
“It is too simplistic to say that all we were interested in was the hard-core task,” General Odierno said. “It simply is not true. We worked very hard to take the balanced approach.”
He expressed satisfaction with his division in bringing down the number of attacks in the Tikrit area of operations, which once accounted for three-quarters of attacks in Iraq and accounted for one-third at the end of his tour. (The focus of the insurgency shifted to the Anbar region, west of Baghdad.) He also cites his division’s efforts in creating three new provisional governments through the first democratic-style caucuses.
The war became unusually, and intensely, personal for General Odierno when his son, Capt. Anthony Odierno, lost much of his left arm during a counter-insurgency mission in Baghdad in the summer of 2004.
The general succeeds the current corps commander, Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the author of an influential essay warning that success in Iraq cannot be achieved solely by training local security forces or through combat operations. General Chiarelli wrote that the military must work to provide essential city services, create jobs and promote local governmental control. He also began the new operation this autumn to secure Baghdad.
After leaving Iraq in early 2004, General Odierno spent 18 months as an assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, most of that as an adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The experience, he said, gave him “a really good understanding of the interagency process.
“Maybe too good,” he said. “I have a pretty clear understanding of what thought processes occur where and at what time, and how we get to certain decisions.”
In what has become the overarching policy of the Bush administration, he also pledged to focus on increasing the capacity of Iraqi security forces, in particular the police, and on combating sectarian militias responsible for a growing percentage of attacks.
“A lot of the militias can be reconciled, and we have to figure out ways to reconcile with them,” he said. “And there are splinter, radical groups that cannot be reconciled. They have other agendas, and they will have to be dealt with in a different way.”
Decisions about how many troops that will require will be made by higher-ranking generals, and he did not hint what advice he might give them as their top field commander.
Asked to describe the Iraq he would like to see at the end of his 12-month tour, General Odierno said: “Bottom line? Full restoration of civil authority in Baghdad. Sectarian violence reduced. Extra-governmental armed groups diminished, and their influence diminished. And the government of Iraq viewed as a legitimate institution in the eyes of the Iraqi people.
“Those are the goals we have set for ourselves,” he concluded. “Will we attain those? I don’t know.”

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