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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Odierno takes charge

General Odierno propaganda art
[courtesy of the The Weekly Standard]

From The Guardian today:
The physically imposing Odierno, who will be promoted to four-star general, was a relative latecomer to the hearts and minds techniques of Petraeus. During his first stint in Iraq in 2003, when he commanded the 4th Infantry Division, Odierno was responsible for an area north of Baghdad known as the Sunni triangle, which included Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's home town.

Few US military commanders or soldiers have much good to say about Odierno's aggressive tactics. His division's mistreatment of Iraqis and the heavy use of artillery appalled others within the country's armed forces.

Army reporters and commanders said Odierno's unit - a heavy armoured division, despite its name – used an iron-fist strategy that may have appeared to pacify the area in the short term, but alienated large parts of the population. Some argue that the behaviour of the 4th Infantry Division helped create the insurgency.

"Fourth ID fuelled the insurgency," an army psychological operations officer told Thomas Ricks in his book on the Iraq war, Fiasco. An unnamed general said bluntly: "The 4th ID – what they did was a crime."

Odierno defended his troops' conduct by saying his men faced a population more hostile than in the rest of Iraq and had to act accordingly. The capture of Saddam in an underground bunker in December 2003 by Odierno's soldiers did little to dispel their cowboy image.

The division's tactics contrasted with those of Petraeus, whose troops complemented searches of ex-Baathists' homes with meetings with tribal chiefs and community projects such as rebuilding schools and painting over old murals of Saddam. Petraeus went on to rewrite the US military's counter-insurgency manual and then took overall command in Iraq.

Odierno was slow in recognising the strength of the insurgency at the start of 2004. At the time, he told reporters that the insurgents had been "brought to their knees". He was not alone in his overconfidence. A few months later, violence erupted and US forces all but ceded control of places such as Fallujah to the rebels...

Odierno is now a convert to the Petraeus approach, telling troops it is their job to protect the population and that counter-insurgency takes time.

From Al Jazeera today:
General Ray Odierno, a US military commander known for his aggressive tactics, has taken command of US-led forces in Iraq, replacing General David Petraeus.... [the 4ID] used a heavy-handed strategy that has been accused of devastating large parts of the Iraqi population. It was Odierno's soldiers who captured Saddam in December 2003. <>But later, he appeared to have adopted Petraeus's approach... He has argued consistently against sharp cutbacks in troop levels in Iraq, which is negotiating a controversial security pact with Washington to determine troop levels that will remain in Iraq after a UN mandate expires at the end of the year.

Here is a copy of General Petraeus' farewell letter to the troops:

Finally, a picture from the change of command ceremony:

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