Small Wars Journal

Odierno Succeeds Petraeus (Updated)

Odierno Succeeds Petraeus in Iraq - Thom Shanker and Stephen Farrell, New York Times

In an ornate palace built by Saddam Hussein, the United States military command in Iraq changed hands on Tuesday from Gen. David H. Petraeus, who created the strategy known as the surge, to Gen. Ray Odierno, who oversaw its day-to-day operations across a country in which violence has dropped significantly.

Attending the hourlong transfer ceremony were Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates; Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, acting commander of the Central Command; and senior Iraqi government and military officials. Mr. Gates later traveled on to Kabul, Afghanistan.

In his first, brief comments as commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, General Odierno said, "We must realize that these gains are fragile and reversible, and our work here is far from done."

Formerly the No. 2 commander, he faces the challenge of improving on the hard-earned security gains in Iraq with fewer troops, as the United States begins preparations to withdraw 8,000 troops by early next year. The overall American military presence in Iraq - 15 combat brigades and support and logistics personnel - would then number about 138,000 people.

General Petraeus will soon take over as commander of the American military's Central Command, responsible for military issues across the strategically important crescent that stretches from Pakistan, across Central Asia and the Middle East, and throughout the Persian Gulf, and includes operations in Iraq and also, most notably, the troubled mission in Afghanistan.

More at the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Voice of America, American Forces Press Service, BBC News and Associated Press.

20 Months in Baghdad - David Ignatius, Washington Post opinion

The night before Gen. David Petraeus turned over command here, a group of senior officers gathered at Camp Victory to say goodbye. It was like a football team's testimonial dinner at the end of a winning season: There were steaks and baked potatoes and a highlight film of the general's 20-month command, scored with rock music, called "Surge of Hope."

The signature line of the video was a statement Petraeus made to Congress when he began what seemed to many people like mission impossible: "Hard is not hopeless." That was his closing comment, too, as he relinquished command in an elaborate ceremony yesterday at the gilded Al Faw Palace. But now, he said, Iraq was "still hard but hopeful."

Petraeus did something astonishing here. It wasn't simply managing the "surge" of U.S. troops, whose precise effects military historians will be debating for years. It was that he restored confidence and purpose for a military that had begun to think, deep down, that this war was unwinnable and unsustainable.

By force of will, Petraeus and his president, George W. Bush, turned that around. They didn't win in Iraq, but they created the possibility of an honorable exit.

More at The Washington Post.

A General for Our Times - The Times editorial

Five years ago a youthful US army general, with a PhD in international relations and a name that seemed plucked from Herodotus, led the 101st Airborne Division into Mosul in northern Iraq. He had taken part in a stunning military victory, but failed conspicuously to celebrate. "This is a race to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people," he said. "And there are other people in this race. In some cases, they want to kill us."

General David Petraeus is still not celebrating. But he is leaving Iraq in a state no sober observer would have forecast when he took command of US forces there early last year. He has pacified large parts of a country that had descended into a solar-heated hell of suicide bombings and sectarian carnage. He has salvaged some pride for the US military after Abu Ghraib, and seen himself hailed as America's most trusted and talented commander of the past four decades.

More at The Times.

Update: Multi-National Force - Iraq Counterinsurgency Guidance signed by General Odierno dated 16 September 2008. Contains Introduction and sections "How We Think", "How We Operate" and "Who We Are".



Wed, 09/17/2008 - 4:36am

Job well done to both General Petraeus and General Odierno. One note though, the <i>NYT</i> piece states that the surge was the strategy. Not so, it was but one component of a new population-centric counterinsurgency strategy adopted by MNF-I.