April 12th, 2009
10:39 AM ET
6 years ago

Top U.S. general in Iraq: I believe we'll be gone by late 2011

WASHINGTON (CNN) – General Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander on the ground in Iraq, said Sunday that he believes U.S. troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011.

CNN Chief National Correspondent John King asked Odierno to rate his confidence, on a scale of one to ten, that U.S. troops would be out by the agreed upon timeline between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

“As you ask me today, I believe it’s a ten – that we will be gone by 2011.”

Odierno, one of the key architects of the surge strategy in Iraq, also weighed in Sunday on the new president’s approach to the troubled nation.

“He’s our commander-in-chief,” Odierno said of President Barack Obama, whose opposition to the Iraq war and to the surge strategy became trademarks during the 2008 White House race. “As our commander-in-chief, we take direction from him.”

“He’s very attentive. He listens. He’s incredibly intelligent. He talks through the issues. . . .He makes a decision and then we execute those decisions and that’s all you can expect out of your commander-in-chief. And I’ve been very pleased with the interaction that I’ve been able to have with him.”


On a lighter note, Odierno also discussed his new Facebook page with King. “I think it’s important that people can reach out and ask questions,” Odierno said of his new online social networking presence. “Maybe [I can] educate them a little bit more on what’s going on here in Iraq and get to know us a little bit better.”

“This is new for me. This is new ground so we’ll see how it goes. But I’m actually pretty excited about it.”

It did not take long for Facebook users to respond to Odierno’s appearance on State of the Union. One commenter on Odierno’s Facebook page said the general was “representing the USA well,” in the interview. “Thank you for that and for all you do for us at home and all those brave men & women you supply leadership & direction,” the commenter added.

Filed under: Iraq • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. Concerned Citizen

    Mr. King,

    You interviewed General Ray Odierno today. I am curious why you did not ask him about VP Biden statement that this country is less safe today than it has ever been. It would be interesting to see what his views are on that becasue he and the armed forces filled with folks, men and women, have sacrifices so much and the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed and the lives lost all to have the VP Biden say that he thinks that the War on Terror was not successful as we are less safe now than we have ever been.

    April 12, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  2. Manuel J.

    To Lori and others below. As I said, you're definitely NOT students of history. You make foolish and ignorant comments about McCain and his "100 years comment".

    WWII ended in 1945. We have had troops in Japan and Germany since then. That was 60 years ago! Korea ended in 1953 and we're still their as a buffer from the North Koreans.

    I'll bet most of you don't realize that Americans and South Korean soldiers die to this day preventing Communist infiltrators from coming South. That's because you've never served and don't know what you're talking about.

    You also don't realize that American military personnel have fought and died in other "conflicts" that were not designated as wars.

    Again, you're NOT students of history and you definitely don't speak with any sense of intellect.

    April 12, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Ron Obama

    We have learned nothing since Vietnam. The General is only saying what he was told to say. If you haven't figured that out by now oh well. The Iraqi people were attacked instead of the Saudis. All 9-11 hijackers were from Saudi. The reason we didn't attack the KSA is that the oil shipments to the U.S. and the world would have stopped. You would have been walking to work instead of driving. Sorry folks but we will be in Iraq until the last drop of oil is pumped out of the ground. By the way most of that oil goes to Japan anyway. Most do not even realize that fact. Thank the Bush family for the Iraq wars. They have made millions. Probably all deposited in off shore accounts.

    April 12, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. Kris

    Uh, General Odierno isn't a new general. He was "trotted out" long ago, as he was the commander of the 4th Infantry Division during the initial phases of the conflict. Those of you suggesting or implying that the generals were idiots under Bush, but are not intelligent under Obama are idiots yourselves. Generals Petraeus and Odierno have been involved in the war from the beginning, and they have put us in the position we find ourselves in today, i.e., a relatively stable Iraq with much reduced violence and an actual exit door. For the past few years, the far left has refused to accept and admit that Bush's surge and counterinsurgency plan (Petraeus' plan) was working. Ever read Orwell? That's doublethink. Scarey how blinded and/or dumb some poeple are.

    April 12, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. dennis

    Well I have heard all thru his campaign that we will not stay and we will get them out. Do it now Mr. President. Also what is up with sending more troops over seas. I know its a politician NOT TELLING THE TRUTH......

    April 12, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. Winski

    It's clear that Odierno needs a trip back to the US to get his NEW orders. When the President says out – he means OUT ! GOT IT!

    It's NOT your call....It's NOT the Iraq's call.. it's NOT Betraus's call...It's Obama's call and the sooner you military dweebs get that thru you faces the better.

    The decision making is NOT in your hands...it's NEVER been in your hands. READ THE CONSTITUTION!! IT'S A CIVILIAN CALL – END OF STORY.

    April 12, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  7. IntelligenceIsGood.

    thanks, manuel j, i was about to say that.

    April 12, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  8. JW

    not to pick at your facts, but all the hijackers were not saudi . The oil market is not just contingent upon on country and their consumption. if japan had to buy oil from canada, then our price of oil would have been affected.

    April 12, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  9. Chuck

    McCain didn't "promise" to be in Iraq for 100 years. What kind of spin is THAT? He said that if it took that long, he would be willing to do it. BIG difference. Promising to do something and being prepared to do it as a contingency is not the same thing. Anyway, Bush has to get credit for the surge/counterinsurgency strategy that has pulled this thing out, and he also got the deal that put the hard deadline on when troops will be drawn down. I agree with others on here that some on the far left (not to be confused with the reasonable center-left) need to stop sticking their heads in the sand and simply recognize that all of Bush's ideas and policies weren't failures. Some of them were right and worked out, and Zakaria, Brown, and others have been writing about how there are MANY foreign policies of Bush's that Obama is essentially keeping. That's an admission that Bush was right about those things. (Keeping secret CIA prisons, 6-party talks with N. Korea, basically following Bush's timeline for drawing down in Iraq, keeping missile defense, etc.) What, can't you face reality? So Bush was right about some things. Good for him, and good for America.

    April 12, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  10. Hugh USARMY coldwar vet

    Will you Obama bashers ever stop with the ultra-patriotic garbage?! As a former volunteer infantry soldier I am sickened by your cheap shots of President Obama. Are you Obama bashers just sad losers in the republican party? Are you patriots? Well, I have my doubts; are you loyal to your commander-in-chief, no!

    April 12, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. Jim in CT

    @Keith in Austin: Be quiet. Every American president has done that. Which would you prefer, bowing, a completely costless gesture with absolutely no effect, or not bowing out of stubbornness and then having to deal with angry Saudis?

    April 12, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Dennis

    Wow, a 4-star with a facebook page? If that isn't progress than I don't know what is. As a member of the Armed Services I can say I am impressed that the ground commander in Iraq is opening up some avenue of redressing grievances and concerns about what's going on over there.

    For him saying that we will be 'out of Iraq by such and such a date' is a little, well, surprising. I think there will be a permanent garrison on the order of something comparable to the force left in Korea or Japan. That's just what I think after seeing with my own two eyes how much money we invested into the 'Green Zone' and FOBs around the country. But I still hope that General Odierno is right in his prediction!

    Fort Benning, GA

    April 12, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. barking republican ankle biters

    John King is a lousey reporter.

    April 12, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  14. joe smith

    every time you listen to these hand picked spokespeople, we get another date of withdrawal, that gives the fed more time to print more money..

    April 12, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. Saul- Virginia

    To Marcus Allen,

    President Obama promised to end the Iraq war, but also promised to do it in an orderly fashion to prevent rapid deterioration. It is quite evident that he has taken the necessary steps with close collaboration with his commanders to exwcute the plan in place. He is going to get criticized no matter what he does, but stting a goal of withdrawal and having a plan to execute it was the best first step instead of "Victory" that has never been define.

    The bottom line is that the president wolud not have started such a war but since he inherited it, he is obligated to get our troops outin the tactful fashion.

    The biggest difference between the Past and present administration is the mindset. President Obama approach is to be smart and tough.

    Just remember the more we invest our financial and military resources in Iraq and Afganistan, the less we can do to prevent Iran, North Korea, Venuzuela and Russia from expanding their powers against us.

    I will urge all of you no matter what you political believes to support our president and our Country. This is not the time to hope for failure for political gains.

    April 12, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. John

    Generals only say what they're told to say. Otherwise, they're quickly put on the retirement list.

    April 12, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. RAY

    As a member and an NCO in the US Army, I am very proud of General Odierno and his leadership style. Yes, the General does have to obey the orders of those appointed over him (President, Congress etc..) but , be rest assured that they also listen to him when he makes a suggestion. His wisdom and experience outweighs his seniors positions (in a literal sense). Our Senior Military Leaders are not mere robots who are ordered around. Believe it or not, they have a lot of influence on what actually happens on the ground in Iraq. I myself have been to Iraq twice, earned a Bronze Star and am eager to return to Iraq in a few months to fight again. So, for all of you who hate: the military, the president and those who love this county, I only have a few words for you... We will not falter, We will not back down and We will not quit. Because we LOVE the United States of America. You live in a nation where only 1% of the countrys population serves in the Armed Forces. Thats a shame compared to other nations like China or Russia. With or without your support WE (Armed Forces) will accomplish the mission! We always have and always will. P.S. You guys sitting at home with no job (and are too scared to join the Military) need to give yourselves a "man" check.

    April 12, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. Saul- Virginia


    Too bad you have gotten used to People being punished in the last 8 years because they don't do or say what they are told. You will be happy to hear that the current administration does not operate that way. In fact many have already said that the president entertains opposing views and debates about issues.

    April 12, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Obama the Con Artist

    Well, Obama is slipping his time table once again. It seems the articulate one has started to realize that it is not so easy to "walk the talk".

    Isn't this about the time table that Bush arranged with the Iraqi PM?

    Just as expected. Obama is all hype, and doesn't know how to execute, except he is good at spending $$$ we don't have.

    April 12, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. Michael K.

    Manuel J said:

    "I'll bet most of you don't realize that Americans and South Korean soldiers die to this day preventing Communist infiltrators from coming South. That's because you've never served and don't know what you're talking about."

    LOL, I'm Korean & know a lot of people (family, friends, business contacts) who live all over South Korea. If you think they think Americans are there doing South Korea some sort of favor by staying there, you're kidding yourself. South Koreans basically don't ever worry about North Korea. So stop telling yourself the America is protecting Korea, when they basically created a situation which permanently split up a huge percentage of Korean families forever.

    The US does one thing really well, which is stick their nose in other people's business, and then convince themselves that they know best. You don't enter your neighbors home, just because you think you can fix the problem. Let other people handle their own problems, and learn to live with the fact that sometimes they're going to mess up.

    April 12, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. Rich (US Navy Vet)

    Amen, Ray. Thanks for continuing to serve.

    April 12, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. Bob

    I know General Ray Odierno and he is highly intelligent, competent and dedicated professional. He is someone you would be proud to call a neighbor, friend or colleague. If only our nation's corporate leadership and banking CEOs were of the same caliber, I’m sure we wouldn't be in the economic crisis that confronts us.

    He is not merely repeating what someone told him to say, because that would be unethical and would serve neither the Army nor the nation. He is voicing his opinion based on a reasonable assessment of the situation. I believe you are being overly skeptical.

    April 12, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  23. andrea

    michael k: if it was up to me, i'll take all american troops out of korea and let you fend for yourselves. furthermore, i'd take all koreans here and send them back home too

    April 12, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. tim

    Except for the small contingent emergency force of 50,000 🙂


    April 12, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Jim

    Ray...thanks for your service. I am a retired colonel with 26 years of service, and also served in Iraq. You and I both that the militar proudly serves no matter who is commander-in-chief. Thanks again. Hooah.

    April 12, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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