If Iraqi forces aren’t making good progress against Islamic State terrorists in the next several months, the U.S. should consider embedding American troops with the Iraqis, the Army’s retiring top general said Wednesday.
Gen. Raymond Odierno, who retires as Army chief of staff on Friday, said the U.S. forces would not be directly involved in the fight.
“I believe that if we find in the next several months that we’re not making the progress that we have, we should probably absolutely consider embedding some soldiers with them, and see if that would make a difference,” Odierno told reporters. “I think that’s an option we should present to the president.”
Speaking during his final Pentagon press conference, Odierno hit a broad range of topics, and spoke at length about Iraq and his frustrations as a commander who spent three long tours there only to see the country plunge again into chaos.
He discounted suggestions – including by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump – that the U.S. should take more aggressive military action in Iraq, saying the solution lies with political and economic reforms. He said the U.S. could probably go into Iraq with enough force to defeat the Islamic State, but the success would not last.
“We’d probably be right back where we are today six months later,” Odierno said. “I absolutely believe that the region has to solve this problem. The U.S. cannot solve this problem for the region.”
Odierno is stepping down and will retire on Friday after 39 years in the military and four years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His service has been punctuated by three tours in Iraq that included leading the 4th Infantry Division during the 2003 invasion and serving as the top military commander in the country from 2008-2010.