Troops Must Understand the 'Why' of the Fight
(July 25, 2010)
|WASHINGTON, July 21, 2010 – With his tenure winding down as
commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno
today shared with reporters some of his lessons learned on
asymmetric warfare and the U.S. military's needs of the
For counterinsurgency to work, military units must
demonstrate their staying power to protect the local
citizens, Odierno told reporters here during a Defense
Writers Group breakfast meeting.
“What we learned in Iraq in 2006 was that it wasn't just
about getting more people; it was about putting our people
in the neighborhoods every day,” he said. “It was about
When U.S. troops first arrived in Iraqi cities and towns,
Odierno said, the residents wouldn't talk to them – a key
method used to gather information about the insurgency. That
changed, he said, when the military began building permanent
“They're position was, ‘We'll tell you this stuff, but we
want you here to protect us, after we tell you,'” he said.
Also, the general said, humanitarian missions, such as
one-day medical clinics that U.S. troops conduct throughout
Iraq, are important to connecting with residents. “Give them
something they don't already have,” the general said.
Odierno also discussed the U.S. troop drawdown in Iraq,
which imposes a Sept. 1 goal of reducing the current 70,000
troops to 50,000. He traveled to Washington from Baghdad to
take part in meetings with State Department officials about
the transition from the military operations that began in
Iraq in 2003 to the increasing State Department mission
The general himself will be part of the drawdown; the Senate
earlier this month confirmed his presidential nomination to
head U.S. Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va.
Odierno said he will use his lessons learned during three
combat tours in Iraq to meet the command's mission of
developing joint doctrine and supporting the combatant
Odierno said he will continue to make the point that
military operations in today's environment are
“exponentially more complicated than when I was a
In conventional warfare, servicemembers could get by on
surveillance of the enemy, Odierno said. But today's
servicemembers, he said, need to understand the culture,
politics and economics of the regions in which they are
“You have to understand the ‘why,'” the general said. “You
have both lethal and non-lethal tools available to you, and
you have to know how and when to use them. It's a new way of
Odierno said he has been thinking a lot about those changes
and how they should be reflected in military doctrine and
training. He said he hopes those units that served under him
in Iraq will come away more broadly trained and agile to
meet changing demands.
“The Army has to be flexible enough to meet the many needs
the commander in chief needs us to do,” the general said.
“The basic principles are that we have to train and study
for each mission.”
Army units of the future will have to be cross-trained in
the way of brigade combat teams, rather than dividing units
between those trained in asymmetric warfare and those
trained conventionally, Odierno said.
“We want brigades and battalions that can operate across
spectrums,” he said. “It's about analyzing the problem,
understanding your capabilities, and being flexible.”
In the case of Iraq's counterinsurgency, Odierno said, “This
is a very thinking enemy. They change how they do things,
and we have to react to that.”
It's not enough to create training and doctrine only around
the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences, which “are very
specific kinds of problems,” the general said.
“If you look at the counterinsurgency of the future,” he
said, “we want to be able to send small units inside
countries to work with governments.”
The specialized teams of U.S. troops serving in Yemen are an
example of that concept, Odierno said.
American Forces Press Service
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