Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Reports grill a Pentagon official and he gives them the run-a-round on the actual amount of troops to be kept in Iraq


DoD News Briefing with Gen. Ray Odierno at the Pentagon Briefing Room via Teleconference From Iraq

Quote from:
MR. WHITMAN: Start right here. We'll start with Andrew.

Q General, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters. You talked about a small number of U.S. forces remaining in the cities to train and advise. Can you put a figure? How many U.S. forces will remain?

GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, people have been trying to get me to say a figure now for about a month. And the reason I won't do it is because it's going to be different every single day, and it'll be based on how much training, how much advising, how much coordination is required. That will change each and every day. So I won't put a number on it.

It is a smaller number, a significantly smaller number than what we've had in the cities now. But it has very specific missions: train the Iraqi security forces, advise them as we continue to move forward, enable them in order to -- potentially if they need some help with aviation, logistics, et cetera. But more -- almost as important, coordinate and help us to continue our situational awareness of all situations within Iraq. And that will help us to better support the Iraqi security forces.

Q General, just to follow up briefly, I am disappointed you didn't give us the scoop after a month of holding out, but I wonder if you could at least give us a -- you know, is it an -- a few thousand? If you could give us a kind of ballpark -- are we talking about several thousand? Would that be a reasonable ballpark to use?

GEN. ODIERNO: Again -- again, there's hundreds of cities around, and we have hundreds of -- you know, and I've let the local commanders work this out. So for me to give a number would frankly be inaccurate, and I just don't want to do it. There'll be trainers, advisers, helping throughout all of the Iraqi cities where we continue to support and advise Iraqi security forces.

Q Whatever the number is, how are you going to convince them basically, the U.S. forces remaining, not to jump in and be helpful, where perhaps you would prefer that the Iraqis take the lead?

What will be different about what they're told to do, in a situation where they might think, their first instinct is, gosh, we can do that better.

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again this is -- I call it -- we are working on changing our mindsets in the city. And I equate it to when we first started the surge, where we had to change our mindset.

So pushing our soldiers back out, getting back into the communities, really partnering with the Iraqi security forces and today, it's the same kind of thing. We have to change our mindset.

When we're in the cities, there's very specific things that we'll do. Actually we've been out of the cities, a large majority of the cities now, for the last eight months. So it's really only Mosul and the last remnants that we've had, in Baghdad, that have pulled out over the last few weeks.

So we've actually been implementing this in many parts of Baghdad for a long time. And they understand what their mission is. They understand what we expect them to do. And you know, we have worked this very closely with all of the leaders in Iraq.

We've worked -- I've worked very closely with all of the leaders in Iraq.