U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, in an exclusive interview with Fox News weeks away from his retirement, said the United States military could have prevented the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) group.
“It’s frustrating to watch it,” said Gen. Odierno, referring to the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. “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.”
“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he added, highlighting concerns about U.S. troop withdrawal pace in Iraq. “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.”
As the top commander in Iraq in 2009, Gen. Odierno, to no avail, suggested that the U.S. keep 30,000-35,000 troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, when America was scheduled to withdraw its forces.
“I think it would have been good for us to stay,” responded Odierno when Fox News asked if it was a mistake to pull out from Iraq.
Gen. Odierno, who has served in the military for 39 years, has spent more than four years in Iraq — more than any other U.S. Army general. He spent the last two years as the top commander in the country. The general is credited with being the mastermind behind the Iraq surge.
Nevertheless, the Obama White House did not reach out to him when ISIS captured large portions of Iraq last year, notes Fox News.
“All my work was given to [Joint Chiefs] Chairman [Martin] Dempsey,” the general said, later adding, “I never talked directly to the president about it at that time, but I talked to the secretary of defense and I’m sure he relayed all of my thoughts.”
In March 2015, President Obama said the rise of ISIS was the unintended consequence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, ordered by President George W. Bush.
“Odierno, though, is most worried about the deep cuts to the Army over the past four years – from 570,000 troops in 2010 to near 490,000 today, a reduction of 14 percent. And the cuts are getting deeper,” reports Fox News.
“In my mind, we don’t have the ability to deter. The reason we have a military is to deter conflict and prevent wars. And if people believe we are not big enough to respond, they miscalculate,” said Gen. Odierno.
Although he supports the Iran nuclear deal, the Army’s top officer warned that “Iran has continued to do malign activities throughout the Middle East [and] they will continue.”