Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, weeks away from retirement after 39 years in uniform, spent more time in Iraq than any other U.S. Army general -- more than four years, the last two as top commander. He is widely viewed as a key architect of the Iraq surge.
“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.
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