President Barack Obama’s recently approved plan to send 450 U.S. troops into Iraq to assist the nation’s military by providing equipment and training is not a change in the current strategy, said a top General in the U.S. Army.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno spoke on “CBS This Morning” on June 11 to discuss the President’s updated plans.
“I don’t think it’s a new strategy … because we’re continuing to execute the strategy that we have,” Odierno said.
The goal of the 450 additional U.S. forces is to train Iraqi Sunnis more quickly and efficiently to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), which has made significant gains over the last month. The Obama administration's strategy was questioned in May after ISIS won over control of the city of Ramadi, just a few miles away from Baghdad, the nation’s capital. The terrorist organization reportedly captured the city without much of a fight, Army Times reported.
Three-fourths of U.S. forces will conduct the training exercises while the remaining troops will be utilized for protection. Altogether, 3,500 U.S. troops will be in Iraq during this time, CBS News reports.
Odierno does not believe many successes will occur in Iraq until the nation’s inhabitants unite to form an organized coalition to battle ISIS.
“Do Shia fighters want to fight in the Sunni part of Iraq? I don’t know," he said. "And so what we need is a totally integrated army of Sunni, Shia and Kurdish fighters that are there for Iraq and are willing to fight for Iraq. Once that’s done, we can train them and we can help them, but until they are able to put together an army that represents everybody, I think it’s going to be a struggle."
Odierno also expressed concern over how the Iraqi government is handling the matter.
“There’s a lot of behind the scenes things going on that are making it difficult for him [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi], in order to do the reforms that are necessary, i.e. reach out to the Sunnis, bring them in as part of the government, make an oil deal with the Kurds, which he has done, and follow through on that,” the General stated.
Odierno, who played a vital role in implementing the successful 2007 troop surge in Iraq under the George W. Bush administration, admitted that U.S. forces cannot defeat ISIS alone.
“I could put 150,000 soldiers on the ground and defeat ISIS? Yes. But then what? A year later it would be right back to where we are today," he stated. "I think in order to solve this problem, you need the Arab communities to solve this problem. The United States cannot solve this problem by itself."
In a May interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Odierno had also stressed the importance of not placing thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“We want to help as much as we can to prevent ISIL from expanding,” but “you have to be careful not to be an accelerant,” he said at the time.
Photo Credit: CNN, The U.S. Army/Flickr