EXCLUSIVE: Top General in Iraq Says 'If They Ask Us to Stay We Will Probably Stay'
Odierno tells ABC News the fight in Mosul may lead U.S. troops to stay longer.
March 9, 2009— -- Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said that continuing the fight against insurgents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul might lead to U.S. troops remaining in the city past a June 30, 2009 deadline for all U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities, but only if the Iraqi government made such a request.
"If they ask us to stay we will probably stay and help them out. If they ask us to just provide them the advising and training support, then we'll do that," Odierno told ABC News' Martha Raddatz in an exclusive interview at a U.S. base outside of the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.
He added that he believes all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by 2011, as laid out in the security agreement announced by President Obama.
The U.S. security agreement with Iraq requires American combat troops to be out of Iraq's cities by June 30. Odierno said plans call for the United States to turn over joint U.S.-Iraqi combat outposts located in Iraq's urban areas to Iraqi security forces as American forces move to larger bases outside the cities.
Odierno said that "inside of the cities, we'll be limited in what we do," as American troops probably won't conduct their own combat patrols, though U.S. forces will continue to be embedded with Iraqi units as trainers and advisers. But he said the situation in northern Iraq might be different if the Iraqi government asks that combat troops remain in Mosul to continue their offensive operations against insurgents.
"Our strategy is the joint security stations stay and the Iraqis man these combat outposts. The Iraqis could ask us to stay in Mosul after June 30 , but that will be their decision," he said. "If they ask us to stay we will probably stay and help them out. If they ask us to just provide them the advising and training support, then we'll do that. So there are still some decisions that have to be made."