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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Longest-serving US commander in Iraq: 'We could have stopped ISIS'

Ray Odierno, the US Army Chief of Staff and the longest-serving US commander in Iraq, has told Fox News that the United States could have stopped Islamic State from destroying Iraq and Syria if the US had kept troops on the ground (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
“It's frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”

Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.
“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “I've always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”
In 2009, while still the top commander in Iraq, Odierno recommended keeping 30,000-35,000 U.S. troops after the end of 2011, when the U.S. was scheduled to pull out. The recommendation was not followed.
“I think it would have been good for us to stay,” Odierno said, when asked if it was a mistake to pull out.
Further, when ISIS took over large portions of Iraq last year including its second-largest city, Mosul, the White House apparently didn’t reach out to the Army officer who had spent more time commanding U.S. forces than anyone else.
“All my work was given to [Joint Chiefs] Chairman [Martin] Dempsey,” Odiernio said. “I never talked directly to the president about it at that time, but I talked to the secretary of defense and I'm sure he relayed all of my thoughts,” he added.
Odierno, though, is most worried about the deep cuts to the Army over the past four years – from 570,000 troops in 2010 to near 490,000 today, a reduction of 14 percent. And the cuts are getting deeper.  
“In my mind, we don't have the ability to deter. The reason we have a military is to deter conflict and prevent wars. And if people believe we are not big enough to respond, they miscalculate,” Odierno said.
Earlier this month, the Army announced an additional cut of 40,000 troops, which would take the Army down to 450,000 soldiers -- or pre-9/11 levels -- the result of a decision taken two years ago.
"I believed at the time we could do that,” said Odierno. “But I said we were on the razor’s edge that we could actually do our mission at 450.”
He added: “Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.
“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”
“When we go to 450, we are going to have to stop doing something," said Odierno.
What could go wrong?

Surprisingly, Odierno is in favor of the sellout to a nuclear Iran despite his admission that Iran is unlikely to change its behavior - maybe he figures it's something the US cannot stop anyway. 

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