By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Gen. Raymond Odierno is often asked: "When will we know we've won in Iraq?"
He can't answer that. Not now. It will be five to 10 years before there is an answer to that question, he said.
Odierno, commander of Multinational Forces-Iraq and former 4th Infantry Division and III Corps commander, spoke about Iraq and the U.S. military's role there during a presentation Monday night in Killeen to about 850 soldiers, community members and other guests.
The general made a stop in Killeen during a weeklong visit to the United States, meeting with III Corps leaders and soldiers Monday. He left Fort Hood this morning for New York.
United States military forces will leave Iraq in 2011, and troops are focused on making sure Iraqi security forces can handle the responsibility of taking care of their own. Odierno said they are on track to do that. Though security is improving in Iraq, "it is not quite enduring," he said earlier Monday evening.
There are about 110,000 troops in Iraq. Fifteen months ago there were 175,000. By September there will be about 50,000, Odierno said. Just as the number of troops deliberately decreases, so will the help provided to the Iraqi forces. The drawdown will be done in a way so the Iraqis can continue to grow, Odierno said.
As combat forces decrease, American troops will provide psychological and physical support to the Iraqi people, government and security forces. The Iraqi people are struggling to see what the future of their country will be, Odierno said. A democratic society with an open economy is a big step for them, though they understand that's where they need to go.
An obstacle is the relationship between political leaders and the Iraqi security forces, Odierno said. A majority of the Iraqi officers want to abide by their country's constitution, but political leaders are interfering. That's something they country will need to work out in the next few years, he said.
Though he couldn't put an exact date on a victory, Odierno said American forces would leave Iraq with honor and success, and "they will do it for those who have sacrificed for these last eight years."
"I will do everything possible to make this succeed in Iraq," he added.
Odierno said earlier that he and many in the audience lost friends on the battlefield, but that only motivated them because they were driven by the sacrifices of others.
Fort Hood, in its contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the "epicenter of sacrifice," Odierno said.
The general, who is the first to command at the division, corps and Army level during the same conflict, also discussed the role III Corps will play when it deploys to Iraq early next year. The organization of American troops there will change in January. Five headquarters will consolidate into one, led by Odierno.
Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, will serve as deputy commander for operations. He and his soldiers will be responsible for day-to-day operations in Iraq, which includes the tactical and operational fight.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at email@example.com or (254) 501-7547.
Iraq by the numbers
Gen. Raymond Odierno said officials continue to see a decrease in violent incidents throughout Iraq.
The number of attacks is at its lowest level since the war began in 2003.
Attacks have decreased by 83 percent in the last two years.
U.S. military deaths have decreased by 90 percent in the last two years.
Roadside bombs remain the weapons of choice, but have decreased by 80 percent in the last two years.
High-profile incidents, such as car and suicide bombs, have decreased by 92 percent.
November saw the lowest number of civilian deaths this year.
These are just figures, Odierno said, but they mean a lot to the citizens of Iraq.