Gen. Odierno: Iraq Will Be a ‘Civilian-Led Operation’ in 2012
On the agenda is the rather touchy topic of how to transition Iraq-related responsibilities from the U.S. military to other agencies as troops gradually depart over the next 17 months. Odierno, who is in charge of 70,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today, expects the military presence to be reduced to 50,000 troops by the end of next month, and to drop to zero by the end of 2011, he said during a breakfast meeting with reporters today.
“We are setting the stage from a military-led to a civilian-led operation,” Odierno said.
The transfer of power and responsibilities is shaping up to be a monumental exercise in bureaucratic maneuvering. Odierno said that more than one thousand “tasks” will be reassigned. Some will be turned over to the Iraqi government, others to U.S. Central Command and the rest to the State Department.
By far the most difficult job that the Pentagon will be handing over to State is the training of the Iraqi police. Odierno said he expects State to get assistance from NATO allies. “Police training is the hardest,” he said. Counterterrorism duties will be transitioned to Iraqi forces.
But many details about who will be charge of what have yet to be ironed out, Odierno said. “That will be part of the discussion” at this week’s conference. There are also countless administrative issues to be resolved, some of which have exacerbated existing tensions between military and civilian agencies in Iraq. State officials have asked the Army to extend contractor-support services that companies currently provide to the U.S. military in Iraq under the so-called LOGCAP contract. The Army indicated it wanted State to take over the oversight of the contract.
The Defense Department also has been asked to equip State officials with armored vehicles and helicopters as part of the transition. That request also is part of the ongoing discussion, said Odierno.
Between now and December 2011, the U.S. military will focus on training Iraqi forces, he said. Although the plan is to withdraw combat units by the end of 2011, some limited presence will remain behind, said Odierno. A “security cooperation” office will be set up at the U.S. embassy to coordinate purchases of U.S. weapons by the Iraqi military. Iraq already has made financial commitments to buy U.S. M1 Abrams tanks, helicopters, C-130 cargo airplanes and F-16 jet fighters, Odierno said. Iraq may not be able to afford its entire wish list, however. Although Iraqi officials have indicated they want to buy a squadron of 18 F-16 aircraft, most likely they will end up acquiring fewer systems, said Odierno, at least until the country’s finances improve. Iraq is running a $25 billion deficit in its 2011 budget of $77 billion. Odierno is seeking $2 billion in U.S. funds in 2011 for programs that would accelerate the training and equipping of Iraq’s military. Iraq’s defense ministry has a budget of $11 billion, but needs additional resources, said Odierno. His $2 billion request faces resistance in Congress. Convincing lawmakers to appropriate funds for Iraq is become more difficult in today’s fiscal environment, he said. “We have our own economic problems.”