Gen. Odierno: US Combat Troops Will Be Gone From Iraq By 2011

[media id=7853] From State of the Union April 12, 2009. John King asks Gen. Odierno if US combat troops will be gone from Iraq by the 2011 deadline.

From State of the Union April 12, 2009. John King asks Gen. Odierno if US combat troops will be gone from Iraq by the 2011 deadline. You can read the transcript with the rest of the interview here. King does his best during the entire interview to prod the General into criticizing the President, but he doesn't take the bait as in this example.

KING: General Odierno, you are the father of the surge strategy. You pushed for it when even many of your commanders wanted to get troops out of Iraq. How hard is it to develop a rapport with the president of the United States who thought your strategy was a reckless escalation?

ODIERNO: Well, first off, he's our commander-in-chief, and as the commander-in-chief, we take direction from him.

He has -- in all of the meetings I've had with him, he's very attentive, he is very -- he listens, he is incredibly intelligent, he talks through the issues and we discuss it. He makes a decision and then we execute those decisions, and that's all you can expect out of your commander-in-chief.

And he's -- and I've been very pleased with the interaction that I've been able to have with him.

Does anyone think if we had a Republican president right now that John King would be trying to get a sitting general to publicly disagree with their policies or ask them if they're capable of following orders?

Transcript of the above portion below the fold.

KING: We're back with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno.

And, General, I want to ask you a bit about what I find fascinating. That is, your relationship with the new commander-in- chief, someone who was so vigorously opposed to the war effort you now lead.

And I want to show our viewers a bit of a timeline here. It was back in October of 2002 when then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, not even in the United States Senate yet, declared he was against the war in Iraq. And then in January of 2007, Senator Barack Obama, United States senator at this point, and candidate for the presidency of the United States, spoke out strongly against the surge policy that General Odierno pushed for.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The responsible course of action of the United States for Iraq and for our troops is to oppose this reckless escalation and to pursue a new policy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But since winning the election and becoming commander-in- chief, a decidedly different tone from President Obama when it comes to the war in Iraq, including his visit to Baghdad just this past Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Every mission that has been assigned from getting rid of Saddam to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections, you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement and, for that, you have the thanks of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: General Odierno, you are the father of the surge strategy. You pushed for it when even many of your commanders wanted to get troops out of Iraq. How hard is it to develop a rapport with the president of the United States who thought your strategy was a reckless escalation?

ODIERNO: Well, first off, he's our commander-in-chief, and as the commander-in-chief, we take direction from him.

He has -- in all of the meetings I've had with him, he's very attentive, he is very -- he listens, he is incredibly intelligent, he talks through the issues and we discuss it. He makes a decision and then we execute those decisions, and that's all you can expect out of your commander-in-chief.

And he's -- and I've been very pleased with the interaction that I've been able to have with him.

KING: Has he ever said, hey, General, you know, Ray, you were right, I was wrong about the surge?

ODIERNO: I don't think we've talked about that ever.

KING: Let me ask you -- let me move back to a more serious question, the idea that in the previous administration and in your service prior to this administration, you were very clear that you thought these decisions should not be based on political timelines, they should be based on conditions on the ground.

I understand you're executing the orders of the commander-in- chief, I just want to get a sense of are you concerned at all that the bad guys, the enemy, knows the timeline, too, and they are going into hiding, hoarding their resources, gathering their weapons, and waiting for you to leave?

ODIERNO: There's always that potential, but, again, let me remind everyone what change was in December when the United States and the government of Iraq signed an agreement, a bilateral agreement that put the timeline in place that said we would withdraw all our forces by 31 December, 2011.

In my mind that was historic. It allowed Iraq to prove that it has its own sovereignty. It allows them now to move forward and take control, which was always -- it has always been our goal is that they can control the stability in their country.

So, I think I feel comfortable with that timeline. I did back in December, I do now. We continue to work with the government of Iraq so they can meet that timeline so that they are able to maintain stability once we leave.

I still believe we're on track with that as we talk about this today.

KING: You say you're comfortable with that timeline, sir. I want you to expound on that a little bit, because back in -- I'm holding up a copy of Tom Ricks' book "The Gamble." It's a fascinating book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist about the war effort in Iraq.

And you told him in that book, this is -- he's quoting you in that book: "When asked what sort of U.S. military presence he expected in Iraq around 2014 or 2014, well after Obama's first term, Odierno said, I would like to see a force probably around 30,000 or so, 35,000 with many troops training Iraqi forces and others conducting combat operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and its allies."

Now certainly this was before the agreement with the Iraqi government was negotiated, I want to make that clear when you made those remarks. But you have to implement this strategy because it is a signed agreement between a government, Iraq, and the United States of America.

But do you personally think it would be best that for the foreseeable future to leave 30,000 or so behind?

ODIERNO: Well, again, what I would tell you is, it really has always been about Iraqis securing their own country. So, the issue becomes, do we think they will be able to do that?

As they continue to improve in the operations they've been able to conduct, I believe that they will be able to do that by the end of 2011. And so the most important thing for us is to help them now, to reduce the risk that will be left with them once we depart at the end of 2011.

We will continue to train and advise. We will continue to assist. We'll continue to conduct combat operations when we believe it's necessary. And I do believe now that it is probably the right time frame.

KING: And on a scale of 1 to 10, sir, how confident are you, 10 being fully confident, that you will meet that deadline? That all U.S. troops will be gone at the end of 2011?

ODIERNO: As you ask me today, I believe it is a 10 that we'll be gone by 2011.

KING: That's a bold statement.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.