US command change in Iraq
chowdawg | September 16, 2008 at 08:59 amby
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This will be Odierno’s third tour in Iraq. From 2001-2004 he commanded the 4th Infantry Division and was deployed to Iraq with that division from March 2003 to April 2004. It was during that deployment, in December 2003, that his troops captured Saddam Hussein. During his second tour in Iraq, he served as commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. From 2006 to 2008 he and the departing Petraeus sought, and were successful in increasing the troop presence in Iraq from 15 to 20 Brigade Combat Teams.
In an elaborate ceremony in the marble-lined rotunda of one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces outside Baghdad, the US defense secretary, Robert Gates, praised the two men for stabilizing the country in the past year.
In his remarks, Petraeus thanked his troops and hailed Odierno as "the perfect man for the job". Iraq was spiraling into all-out civil war when Petraeus took over in February 2007, almost four years after Saddam was toppled by a US-led invasion. Since late last year, violence has fallen to a four-year low. Much of the credit has gone to the counter-insurgency strategies of 55-year-old Petraeus.
Odierno, criticized for riding roughshod over civilians during his first tour to Iraq in 2003-2004, implemented the surge as the corps commander from December 2006 to March 2008, which Gates said made him the right person to replace Petraeus.
Odierno carried out the detailed counter-insurgency campaign that poured US troops into Baghdad, cleared al-Qaida insurgents from havens in communities surrounding the capital and targeting Shia extremists.
Odierno takes charge at a time when, according to Gates, American forces are on a "mission in transition" as troop numbers shrink with more and more provinces being handed back to Iraqi control. Iraq handles security in 11 of its 18 provinces with plans to take over a few more by the end of the year. But the country remains fragile. Yesterday, bombings killed at least 34 people and wounded dozens more.
Odierno has argued consistently against sharp cutbacks in American troop levels in Iraq. But the US force of 146,000 will shrink by about 8,000 in January when Bush leaves office.
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