WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 — President Barack Obama’s nominee for the top U.S. Joint Forces Command post said today he will utilize the lessons he has learned during three combat command tours in Iraq if he is confirmed to lead the nation’s joint force provider.
During his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno explained the approach he would take at the Norfolk, Va.-based command.
Odierno, commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, also has served as commander Multinational Corps Iraq and was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“My first priority will be to support all of our combatant commanders and prepare our U.S. joint interagency team to meet the needs of this evolutionary and complex environment in which we must continue to operate, and not only operate, but succeed,” the general said. “I will never forget my responsibilities to ensure our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, as well as our dedicated families, are prepared and ready to take on all of the challenges ahead.”
Odierno took time to brief the committee on the situation in Iraq, saying he is encouraged by the progress there. Iraq held national elections in March and sat its new parliament earlier this month. The process of forming a new government proceeds slowly, Odierno said, but is proceeding.
“We are working closely with Iraqi partners to enable a process that yields an inclusive governing body that is representative of the diversity of the nation and the results of the elections,” he said.
Terrorists continue to launch sporadic attacks in Iraq, but the overall decline in attacks continues. The number of civilian casualties also continues to decline, as well as the number of high-profile attacks.
All of this is happening as the number of U.S. personnel in Iraq is dropping and the mission is changing. Since June 30, 2009, the Iraqi security forces have assumed full responsibility for planning and executing security operations in their country.
“Working closely with the [U.S. Central Command] commander, secretary of defense and the president of the United States, we have developed a roadmap for the future of Iraq and our mission there,” Odierno said.
Some 84,000 U.S. servicemembers are based in Iraq, down from 165,000 at the height of the surge in 2008. That number will drop to 50,000 by the end of August as part of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement. The American troops remaining will transition to an “advise and assist” role for Iraqi security forces. All U.S. troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011, according to the agreement.
“As we transition to a civilian-led presence, we will continue to conduct partnered counterterrorism operations and provide combat enablers to help the Iraqi security forces maintain pressure on the extremist networks,” Odierno said. “But our primary mission will be to train, advise [and] assist the Iraqi security forces to protect the population against internal and external threats.”
U.S. Forces Iraq will continue to support the U.S. embassy, the provincial reconstruction teams, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations dedicated to building Iraqi governmental capacity, the general noted.
Odierno praised the efforts of U.S. servicemembers in all phases of warfare.
“In a complex and ever-changing operating environment, our servicemembers have displayed unparalleled adaptability and ingenuity to work through the toughest issues,” the general said.
“If confirmed,” he continued, “I’m committed to applying the lessons I’ve learned in almost five years as a division, corps, and force commander inside of Iraq. I will dedicate myself to ensure that, in my duties as the commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, I plan to use that experience to develop our joint doctrine and capabilities, evolve our professional military education and support our servicemembers currently deployed around the world.”
The armed services committee must vote on the nomination and, if approved, the full Senate must confirm the appointment. Odierno would replace Marine Corps Gen. James N. Mattis at the command.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)