Iraq — U.S. Military On Track For Iraq Drawdown, Odierno Says

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 — The mil­i­tary is on track to meet its draw­down goals in Iraq, and there will be plen­ty of troops left until the end of 2011 to help Iraq become ful­ly inde­pen­dent, the com­mand­ing gen­er­al of U.S. Forces in Iraq said today.

U.S. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq
U.S. Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq, talks to the press dur­ing an oper­a­tional update brief at the Pen­ta­gon, July 21, 2010.
DoD pho­to by U.S. Air Force by U.S. Mas­ter Sgt. Jer­ry Mor­ri­son
Click to enlarge

“I feel very com­fort­able that we will be at 50,000, prob­a­bly by the last week of August,” Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no said dur­ing a Defense Writ­ers Group break­fast here fol­lowed by a Pen­ta­gon press brief­ing. Troop strength prob­a­bly will stay around 50,000 through next sum­mer, even though all U.S. forces are to be out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, he said.

With 70,000 troops still in Iraq – down from 145,000 in Jan­u­ary 2009 — the mil­i­tary is on sched­ule to meet Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Sep­tem­ber draw­down goals, Odier­no said. And, the gen­er­al said, his com­mand also is ahead of sched­ule in draw­ing down its equip­ment. Forty thou­sand wheeled vehi­cles have left the coun­try – half bound for Afghanistan – and 1.2 mil­lion oth­er pieces of equip­ment have been moved out, account­ing for 95 per­cent of the equip­ment draw­down goal, he said.

At the height of the troop surge in 2007, the mil­i­tary had 608 facil­i­ties in Iraq, and now has 112, Odier­no said. The com­mand is on track to meet its goal of hav­ing 94 facil­i­ties in Iraq by Sep­tem­ber, he said.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant inter­a­gency, inter­ser­vice endeav­or,” Odier­no said, adding that it is the largest U.S. mil­i­tary rede­ploy­ment since the end of the Viet­nam War. “It speaks to the capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty of our lead­ers” in Iraq that the draw­down is on track, he said.

The remain­der of U.S. mil­i­tary assets planned for Iraq after Sep­tem­ber, Odier­no said, will be enough to con­tin­ue the mis­sion of advis­ing, assist­ing and train­ing, and also sup­port any lin­ger­ing secu­ri­ty chal­lenges even if there is an uptick in vio­lence. The mis­sion now is trans­form­ing to sup­port the State Department’s increas­ing pres­ence in Iraq, he said, not­ing he made the trip from Bagh­dad to Wash­ing­ton to dis­cuss the plan fur­ther.

The main chal­lenges left for Iraq’s inde­pen­dence are polit­i­cal uni­ty and finan­cial sol­ven­cy, the gen­er­al said. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Iraq’s four major polit­i­cal groups fin­ished very close in last March’s nation­al elec­tions, mak­ing nego­ti­a­tions over lead­er­ship dif­fi­cult, he said.

The new gov­ern­ment needs to reflect the wish­es of vot­ers and be inclu­sive of all of Iraq’s eth­nic groups, Odier­no said. He added that the Kur­dish region of north­ern Iraq remains the most ten­u­ous and the north­ern city of Kirkuk prob­a­bly will be the last place U.S. troops depart.

“We clear­ly want a uni­ty gov­ern­ment,” the gen­er­al said, “and I think there is no choice in that. To be suc­cess­ful, Iraq must have a uni­ty gov­ern­ment.”

Iraq is chal­lenged by out­side inter­ven­tion in its polit­i­cal progress, espe­cial­ly from Iran, Odier­no said. He added that Iran con­tin­ues to train insur­gent groups inside Iraq.

Iraq also has to improve its econ­o­my, Odier­no said. About 95 per­cent of its rev­enue comes from oil, he said, but it will take Iraq anoth­er three to five years to pro­duce enough oil to enable the coun­try to become finan­cial­ly sol­vent.

Mean­while, Iraqi offi­cials are frus­trat­ed because there has­n’t been more out­side invest­ment in the coun­try, Odier­no said. How­ev­er, more for­eign invest­ment in Iraq will occur, he said, as Iraq’s legal sys­tems solid­i­fy.

Odier­no said it is impor­tant for the Unit­ed States to con­tin­ue to sup­port Iraq even after all U.S. troops leave there.

“It’s in our best inter­est that we con­tin­ue to sup­port them,” the gen­er­al said. “We could have a great out­come” of sta­bil­i­ty in the Mid­dle East, and a part­ner­ship with a key play­er.

“We have to be care­ful we don’t run away from them,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)