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thedrifter
01-08-07, 08:54 PM
Iraq battle plan includes aid, talks, troops
Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the new U.S. commander, looks beyond military options for solutions to the crisis.
By Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
January 8, 2007

BAGHDAD — Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the newly installed day-to-day commander of military operations in Iraq, said that success here would depend on a multi-pronged strategy that included economic aid and political negotiations in addition to increased military actions targeting Shiite and Sunni Arab militants.

"We have always tended to look for the military for the solution to this problem," said Odierno, who left his job as military advisor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to become the operations chief for Iraq.

Speaking before an expected Bush administration proposal to request a surge of thousands of U.S. troops, Odierno said more soldiers would speed the training of the Iraqi force and help quell sectarian fighting in the capital.

He said bringing peace to Baghdad could be accomplished either with additional American troops or expanded recruiting and training of Iraqi troops, or a combination of the two.

Odierno, a West Point graduate who has commanded the 4th Infantry Division in Tikrit and northern Iraq, was known as a tough fighter whose tactics sometimes bordered on the controversial.

But in his comments during a media luncheon at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Odierno said that he had "learned an awful lot" and acknowledged that the war, and the tactics necessary to prevail, had changed.

Odierno said that during a recent fact-finding trip by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, he offered several suggestions for increased U.S. involvement in Iraq.

"Some included a surge of economic capabilities, they included a surge of other capabilities within our government — Treasury, Justice — to work the rule of law, and some didn't include a troop surge," he said. "We provided a broad range of things and then we gave a risk analysis."

Odierno said that some tasks, such as training Iraq's police and military and securing Baghdad, could succeed without additional American troops, but they would take more time.

"Over time we can accomplish the mission," he said. "Now that time might be two or three years from now, so the issue becomes are we willing to wait two or three years or do we want to speed it up."

With a troop increase, of either Iraqis or Americans, Odierno said, he hoped to hand over security responsibilities for the capital to the Iraqi security forces by August or September.

The commander said he also hoped that the forthcoming Bush plan would address rampant unemployment in Iraq and political challenges that had become rallying points for Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

Iraqis alienated

Political instability and the alienation of ordinary Iraqis from their government have driven many people into the embrace of armed militant groups, he said, adding that the U.S. government could try to help close the gap by better protecting Iraqi civilians, creating jobs and helping to support elections for local councils more responsive to their constituents' needs.

Odierno said another reason for Iraqis' alienation was the tendency of many leaders to be more interested in sectarian interests than the national good of Iraq.

"We thought they'd come together rather easily," he said. "We underestimated that…. We thought they'd think Iraq first, and that didn't occur. I think maybe it will occur over time, but it's not occurring now."

Odierno said he hoped that the parliament, which hasn't had a quorum in more than a month, would pass a law clarifying the role of the Shiite paramilitary groups that have been implicated in death-squad operations against Sunnis.

"They have to have a militia policy," he said of Iraq's government officials. "In my mind, out of the militias, 80% of them are probably OK. We could probably immediately put them into either the police or the army."

U.S. and Iraqi forces would probably have to "capture or kill" the remaining 20% "that are … extreme," he said.

Finding a balance

Odierno said that targeting militias would balance military efforts in Baghdad that until recently were overly focused on Sunni areas. Shiite militias have been ruthlessly pressing their advantage in Baghdad, sweeping whole neighborhoods clear of Sunni Arabs.

One of the failings of a U.S. security plan for Baghdad that was announced with great fanfare in August was that it "was focused mostly on Sunni neighborhoods," he said. "One of the things I think about all the time is that we can't be seen as being a leverage of one group getting advantage over another group."

He said, however, that he was still questioning whether the U.S. had a strong partner in the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

"We all have doubts as we move forward," Odierno acknowledged. "But I think I have enough faith in that they're smart people, they're educated people. I think they want to move their country forward."

Odierno spoke on another day of continuing violence in Iraq.

A car bomb in Baghdad on Sunday killed three U.S. airmen assigned to the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Division, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. military announced Sunday that a U.S. soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters group was killed Friday in Al Anbar province. And in southwest Baghdad on Saturday, insurgents shot a U.S. soldier to death, the military said.

In east Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed two people and gunmen killed a Finance Ministry guard Sunday. In west Baghdad, seven mortar rounds killed four civilians.

At least 17 bodies were discovered in Baghdad, all showing signs of torture and all with gunshot wounds to the head.

In the southern town of Hillah, a car bomb killed two people in a market, and in Kut, a land mine killed a border patrol guard, police said.

moore1@latimes.com

Times special correspondents in Baghdad and Hillah contributed to this report.

Ellie