Retiring Army chief suggests US forces return to Iraq – to help fight ISIS

U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno © Lintao Zhang / Pool
Washington should consider sending US troops to Iraq, said retiring US Army general Ray Odierno, adding that the option should be presented to US President Barack Obama when “the time is right.” Now the “excuse” for US invasion in the crisis-torn country is Islamic State militants.

“We should probably absolutely consider embedding some soldiers [with Iraqi forces], then see if that would make a difference." Army General Ray Odierno said during his final press briefing on Wedneday. He retires on Friday after nearly 40 years in uniform.

Odierno, who has been commanding US forces throughout almost all Iraqi war and served as top US commander in Iraq from 2008 to 2010, said that this insertion of US troops "doesn't mean they would be fighting, but ... they would be abetting them and moving with them.”

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Odierno’s statement coincided with Thursday’s deadly attack by Islamic State militants in Baghdad. At least 76 people were killed and more than 200 injured after a powerful truck bomb blast hit the capital’s Shia-dominated Sadr-City district.

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"I think that's an option [sending US soldiers to Iraq] we should present to [US President Barack Obama] when the time is right," he said.

Now the current “excuse” for the US reinvasion of war-torn Iraq is the aggression of Islamic State, which has controlled almost one-third of Iraq since June 2014.

© Mohammed Ameen

“We could probably go [into Iraq] with a certain amount of American force and ... defeat [Islamic State]. The problem is we would be right back where we are today six months later," said the retiring general.

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Reentering Iraq “might be the only solution,” said Odierno, adding that the situation in the country is “becoming more difficult by the day” and “Iraq might not look like it did in the past.”

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Dan Glazebrook, a political writer and journalist, believes that Islamic State is seen by the US as “a valuable asset to achieve US goals in the region: destabilizing Syria and Iraq.”

“ISIS is being used some kind of leverage against the Iraqi government. So US can step in as its [Iraq] protector.”

Speaking on Odierno’s briefing on possibility of reentering Iraq, Glazebrook pointed out that “US intervention in Iraq actually led to the rise of ISIS.”

“Pouring more fuel into the fire is not going to help,” he said, adding that if you wanted to eliminate Islamic State, you would need to cut off their sources of funding.

This is not the first time Odierno has spoken out about battling ISIS with US troops. In July, he told Fox News that Washington could have prevented the rise of ISIS if US troops had stayed a little longer in Iraq.

“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” Odierno said. “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.”

According to a report by UK-based monitoring group Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) in June, Iraq is now the most dangerous place in the world for civilians to live.

There are conflicting reports of the number of civilians killed in the Iraqi conflict, but most of them agree that they go beyond 100,000. Iraq Body Count (IBC), a website which estimates civilian deaths resulting from the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, says that more than 160,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Though US officially withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the insurgency and various types of armed conflicts still continue.

The number of casualties has increased in recent years, IBC estimates say: 2012 saw about 4,600 civilians killed, while 2014 saw 17,000 deaths. The group has already recorded over 10,000 people killed in the first eight months of 2015 so far.