Sunday, December 24, 2006
I never had it in the ear before:
Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno. Chief uniformed advocate of The Surge. Capturer of Saddam. Master of brutality. How is he at strategic thinking? Last year, when Odierno was head of plans for General Myers, I got a peek into his brain:

GOODMAN: Okay. Gentleman from The New Republic in the back.

QUESTIONER: Thank you. Sorry about that. General, you just quoted the policy — the strategy's end state, including a representative government that respects the rights of all Iraqis. How do the reports that we've been hearing about Shi'ite death squads operating both inside and outside of the Ministry of Interior fit into that? Has U.S. training and equipping of forces inside the Ministry of Interior gone to people who've gone into these operations? And what's the responsibility of policymakers and U.S. troops on the ground with respect to these forces?

ODIERNO: I can't specifically answer your question on whether equipment we've given has gone direct — I know, for example, it has not gone directly to these forces. And how many of these forces are formed — I really can't answer that question. I would leave that to the people that are on the ground.

But what I will say is we have developed the military transition teams that are with all Iraqi army forces, and we also have police transition teams that are embedded with police forces. And the intent of these — there's a number of things. First, it is to talk about and monitor how they're doing. It's also to establish and show them how we lead; to live with them, understand our way of building military forces. So it helps in them seeing what we believe are the right things to do.

In addition to this, we have partnering units with at least the military units, where we partner one battalion — a coalition battalion with an Iraqi battalion. And the reason we are doing this is so that we can walk them through how we believe — (audio break) — military operations should be conducted, along the lines of international law and moral convictions.

Now, again, I want to go back to what I said. This will take time to do this. The people of Iraq were raised under very different conditions than Western coalition forces were.

We have found them to be extremely successful. They thirst for relationships with American forces on the ground. And we have found very positive results when we interact on a regular basis with them. They have this thirst for learning. They have a respect for Western and U.S. forces and how we conduct operations.

But it's going to take some time. It's not going to happen overnight. It's education. It's leadership training. And we have these programs established, and they continue to grow. They still aren't at the level we want them to be, but they continue to grow. And I think the interaction with coalition forces is helping us.

We still have some problems, and we still have a lot — a ways to go on this. But we see progress being made.

They have this thirst for learning! And the only thing that can slake it... is a cold... refreshing... Surge!
--Spencer Ackerman