New Iraq Commander Says War Could Last Years

Ray Odierno, the new 3-star in charge of American operations in Iraq, says winning the counterinsurgency will take more time.

The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another “two or three years” for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.

The commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, assumed day-to-day control of war operations last month in the first step of a makeover of the American military hierarchy here. In his first lengthy meeting with reporters, General Odierno, 52, struck a cautious note about American prospects, saying much will depend on whether commanders can show enough progress to stem eroding support in the United States for the war.

“I believe the American people, if they feel we are making progress, they will have the patience,” he said. But right now, he added, “I think the frustration is that they think we are not making progress.”

Well . . . yeah.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Ray Odierno, the new 3-star in charge of American operations in Iraq, says winning the counterinsurgency will take more time.

    We need a fresh analysis here. In 2003 Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Bush argued that the US would be greeted as liberators and that the war would last–to quote Cheney– “weeks rather than months.”

    Four years later we get this Odierno character saying the occupation will last two to three more years?

    Since, according to Bush, members of his administration can do no wrong, it is clear that the reason for the quagmire is incompetent generals and troops like Odierno.

    We need to immediately abandon all of this “support the troops” rhetoric and demand accountability from these people since they have not been able to complete the job for which they are hired.

    AMerican taxpayers have given these people billions of dollars and more resources than have gone to any policy in the history of the country and they still havent finished the job.

    If this were the corporate sector and the employees (i.e. generals & soldiers) didn’t accomplish the goals of the Board of Directors (i.e. elected political leaders), the Board would sack those in charge in a heartbeat.

    The defeatist attitude of a guy like Odierno should not be tolerated.

    If the US military is supposedly the “best and most effective in the world,” then they need to start acting like it and show us the results.

  2. legion says:

    Ah, but the general, just like many senior execs, knows he will likely not still be in this position when the check he just wrote comes due… all problems are the fault of the previous administration.

  3. LJD says:

    The defeatist attitude of a guy like Odierno should not be tolerated.

    That’s rich. So if we are not to listen to our General officers, then what, the defeatist attitude of Cindy Sheehan?

    Correction: We have been told all along, from many members of this administration, that this will be a long fight. How ‘you guys’ can continue to repeat that ‘weeks not months’ line that referred to the original invasion, is just grasping at straws.

    Also FYI, this IS the ‘fresh analysis’ here. Goes to show that the ‘I was for it before I was against it’ crowd just can’t seem to keep up with their own positions.

    We need to immediately abandon all of this support the troops rhetoric… If the US military is supposedly the “best and most effective in the world,” then they need to start acting like it and show us the results.

    Well, at least we know where YOU stand.

  4. Triumph says:

    Well, at least we know where YOU stand.

    Either they can accomplish the task or they can’t.

    The country does not have unlimited resources to pour into this adventure.

    Why should the military not be held accountable for performance?

    Bush prides himself on being the CEO President. During the 2002 push to explain the need for the war to the American people, his ex-Chief of staff indicated “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

    The “product” was the war. In the private sector, if your “product” fails you discontinue it or hire people who can design and sell one that is effective.

  5. Anderson says:

    Triumph, are you being satirical?

    If we assigned the military to empty the Atlantic Ocean, I daresay they’d fail. Not through “incompetence” however.

    Had the Army been ordered in summer 2003 to begin mounting a counterinsurgency, they might have done that well, or they might not have. What’s evident, however, is that they were not to instructed. Blame for that rests with Bush, Rumsfeld, and Myers.

  6. Anderson says:

    “Not so instructed,” natch.

  7. LJD says:

    I am really excited about this new Congress, because we can finally start looking for some solutions. i.e. We will no longer be satisfied with just ‘looking for blame’ as Anderson points out.

    So here we have change initiated in part by the voters, in part by events on the ground. It would seem that the calls for a change have been answered.

    So now the goal posts are moved yet again. Well, no more. The goal posts stay where they are.

    If you want immediate withdrawal, then say you don’t give a damn about what happens to Iraq. Then you lose the ability to harp about the civilian casualties.

    If you say you support our troops, don’t tie their hands and then talk about their incompetence. Let them do their job, the ugly, horrifying work of war. Let them do it and finish, get the job done and come home.

    Don’t try to minimze the threat of the enemy, or put any real value in their ‘willingness’ to negotiate. If you are a pacifist, then say so. Tell us there is nothing that you feel is worth fighting for.

    Finally, realize that complaining and blaming are totally counterproductive. Realize that many Americans both more intelligent and more familiar with the specifics, (at many levels, not just in the Administration) are working very hard, at risk of life and limb, to set things right in Iraq.

    So we have a Democratic congress. They have the stage, although I’m not sure many of them will follow my reasoning. If they want to pull the plug on Iraq, they’re going to have to admit:
    1.) They weren’t really looking for this kind of a change in course (regardless of what they said to get elected)
    2.) They don’t really give a damn about Iraq or its people
    3.) They aren’t really all that serious about the GWOT.

  8. legion says:

    If you say you support our troops, don’t tie their hands and then talk about their incompetence. Let them do their job, the ugly, horrifying work of war. Let them do it and finish, get the job done and come home.

    There’s a whole lotta problems with that one statement. First of all, how exactly have Dems been trying to tie the troops’ hands? By not providing them with enough of the proper equipment? By not providing them with adequate medical & psychological care after they return home? By deliberately disregarding published JCS directives & failing to perforn any post-combat planning at all? By thoughtlessly dissolving the Iraqi Army, with no idea what to do with those now-unemployed people, thus creating a large chunk of the current insurgency problem we now face? I think you’ll find no Dem fingerprints on that list…

    Second, I’d like to know the name of any Dems who have described our troops as incompetent. So far as I know, that pathetic act has only been committed by a senior GOP Congressman…

    And finally, I believe (and an increasing number of civilian, retired, and even uniformed experts are coming to the conclusion) that a one-dimensional military effort (which is all we appear to have anymore) is _never_ going to succeed at the mission we have taken on in Iraq. That has nothing to do with the competence of our troops – only the sanity of the people who are supposed to define their mission. To continue Anderson’s analogy, if you set our troops up on a mission they cannot accomplish, you’re getting them killed for no damn reason. That’s acceptable to the President, apparently – but not me.

  9. LJD says:

    Actually, Triumph used the term incompetent here, and most who would criticize the Administration do so at the expense of those doing the job.

    One example of tying our soldiers hands is not killing Al Sadr when we could have, or the backlash over Fallujah. Perhaps following the advice to spare Saddam- which fortunately was ignored. These are the results you get when our media and elected officials support the terrorists, by spreading doubt through propaganda. It happens when isolated instances of abuse and accidents from the fog of war are viewed to be commonplace, regardless of a deliberate campaign of horror against civilians on the part of the enemy. Or when we overburden our soldiers with too much gear…

    I don’t expect you to ‘get it’ Legion, so I won’t bother with further explanation.

    Just keep in mind that the military effort you are now criticizing, has yet to be unveiled. Which I guess makes you one of the defeatists, giving up the fight, not willing to do what it takes to win, not even interested in finding a way to win.

    So can I chalk you up as one that doesn’t give a damn about Iraq post-cut and run?

  10. McGehee says:

    that the war would last — to quote Cheney — “weeks rather than months.”

    I really do get tired of words being re-defined for political convenience. The latest, apparently, is “war,” which now includes everything we do in the place where the war was waged, until the last American in uniform leaves.

    Under this definition, World War II is still going on.

  11. Anderson says:

    One example of tying our soldiers hands is not killing Al Sadr when we could have, or the backlash over Fallujah. Perhaps following the advice to spare Saddam- which fortunately was ignored.

    None of that has anything to do with Dems, LJD. Your out-of-touch-with-reality stance is characteristic of how we got into Iraq in the 1st place.

    These are the results you get when our media and elected officials support the terrorists, by spreading doubt through propaganda.

    Good lord, someone get this man a free lifetime membership in the John Birch society. How about “these are the results you get when the Republican President & Congress, unfettered by oversight or common sense, mire the country in a hopeless war”?

  12. LJD says:

    Wake up Andersen. ‘Hopeless war’ is your terminology. Try to look beyond it.

    If it was up to you guys we would all be in chains.

  13. Bithead says:

    The idea that this was going to take years was soemthing the President told us going in. So, now suddenly this is news?

  14. LJD says:

    So yeah, lets just cherry-pick my arguments now and turn up the rhetoric. Completely ignore the challenge I posed to you about not complaining and finding solutions, ignore the question I posed to you about where you stand.

  15. Wayne says:

    The Democrats have been undermining this war from the get-go. Every collateral damage and missteps has been magnified. Every success have been turn into a failure. They have tried micromanaging this war even to the troop levels and intelligence gathering. This is a regional conflict. Yet, there has been no push to put military pressure on Iran or Syria. The Dems and MSM just want to ask them really, really nicely not to support the insurgents in Iraq.

    If the military had the option to attack Syria, Iran or any country supporting the terrorist in Iraq with as much force including intelligence gathering, as the military deems necessary then one can say they don’t have their hands tied. However, there is no way the Dems or MSM would not support that. They don’t even support the efforts going on now. One can argue if they should have their hands tied but right now their hands are tied and to deny that is denying reality.

  16. Anderson says:

    If it was up to you guys we would all be in chains.

    Hey, keep my sexual preferences out of this!

    “Hopeless war” is what anyone with sense calls a dumbass attempt to invade Iraq and impose democracy upon it. There are things that might work, and there are things that almost certainly won’t work. This was the latter, as many non-stupid people were pointing out at the time.

    I mean, we might as well invade California and try to impose sharia law. That would work about as well.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Bush has lost the war. Sad but true. I think we all need to deal with it and think about moving on…

  18. Anderson says:

    They have tried micromanaging this war even to the troop levels and intelligence gathering.

    Examples, please? Y’all are just being driven loopy by the fact that this war has been run 100% by a Republican White House & Congress.

    If the military had the option to attack Syria, Iran or any country supporting the terrorist in Iraq with as much force including intelligence gathering, as the military deems necessary then one can say they don’t have their hands tied.

    Well, let’s see. That would be “going to war” against those countries, and declaring war is allocated to Congress by the Constitution.

    Has the President asked Congress to declare war on Syria or Iran? No? Why does Bush insist on tying the military’s hands? Is he a Democrat?

  19. Wayne says:

    Murtha, Kerry, Pelosi, McCain, Read, and many others have commented and tried to put pressure on Bush about the troop levels since the start of Iraq war.

    A sh*#tload of lawsuits and congressional investigations on the NSA wiretapping programs and prisoner interrogations for starters. The MSM exposing of many of the intelligence gathering techniques. All of which put everyone in a CYA mode.

    Bush hasn’t gone to congress because he knows they will not give him the authority to go to war with those countries at this time. It would only result in weakening him politically. If he had the Libs and MSM support he could then it would untie his and the military hands. Most likely resulting in those countries cessation of support for the insurgents. If not we could take away their means of supporting them.

  20. Anderson says:

    Murtha, Kerry, Pelosi, McCain, Read, and many others have commented and tried to put pressure on Bush about the troop levels since the start of Iraq war.

    “Commented and tried to put pressure on.” Oooh, I bet Bush was really scared about that. Oh, and McCain is a Republican. Just so you’re not confused in any upcoming primary elections.

    A sh*#tload of lawsuits and congressional investigations on the NSA wiretapping programs and prisoner interrogations for starters.

    Lawsuits? The president’s been deterred from pursuing his chosen military policy by *lawsuits*? … As for “congressional investigations,” we had the one about Abu Ghraib (which went nowhere) and … what, exactly?

    Bush hasn’t gone to congress because he knows they will not give him the authority to go to war with those countries at this time.

    Why wouldn’t the Republican Congress have done that at any time Bush asked during 2003-06? No good reason, surely?

    I don’t particularly expect you to see how daft you sound, but it may be instructive to others.

  21. Wayne says:

    Anderson
    You are pretending that the Executive branch lives above political pressure and public opinion which is greatly influence by the MSM. I think it is obvious who is being daft here.

    Thinking that Bush could have done anything he wanted to when the GOP held Congress is being daft. Having a slim majority plus liberals Republicans like McCain and Snow kept Bush from much of his agenda. In addition widening the War without bi-partisan support would have cause great opportunities for the Dems and MSM to further undermine any war effort.

  22. Wayne says:

    Anderson
    “Lawsuits? The president’s been deterred from pursuing his chosen military policy by *lawsuits*? … As for “congressional investigations,” we had the one about Abu Ghraib (which went nowhere) and … what, exactly?”

    Where have you been living? There have been lawsuits for prisoners held in Cuba and many other countries. There have been many lawsuits on intelligence gathering to include the so call NSA wiretap and use of water boarding. Then to claim there has only been one “congressional investigations,” into the handling of the war. What have you been smoking. Watch C-Span a little and you may get a clue.