Transcript: Martha Raddatz Interviews Gen. Ray Odierno

Odierno says the fight in Mosul may lead U.S. troops to stay in Iraq longer.

ByABC News
March 9, 2009, 9:54 AM

March 9, 2009— -- The following is a transcript of an exclusive ABC News interview with Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq. At a U.S. base outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the general told ABC News' senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz's that continuing the fight against insurgents in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul might cause U.S. troops to stay in the city past a June 30 deadline for all U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities, but only if the Iraqi government made such a request.

MARTHA RADDATZ: Gen. Odierno, let's just start with the drawdown that President Obama announced, 19 months total. How will that work?

GENERAL RAY ODIERNO: First off, it's a combination of several things. First, it's in line with the security agreement that we signed. I think it shows how we have slowly transitioned from counter insurgency to a more of a stability type operation across the country and so this will help us implement that, and I think it's on track with how we're going to implement that. So what you'll see is, is we'll slowly move to more stability operations across the country. I would tell you that today we're probably at about 75% of Iraq already into, majority stability operations, but 25% we still have counter insurgency going on. And I think it's going to take us 19 months to finish up the counter insurgency work we have to do and completely transition to a stability operations. I think it's in line with that based on our estimates now.

RADDATZ: In terms of moving brigades, you've got 2 brigades that won't be replaced, but that will be the only movement this year?

ODIERNO: Unclear. What I'll do this year is I'm going to bring out about 12,500 soldiers which is both combat troops and enablers, that will move between now and July. I will do another assessment in the fall to decide if I want to bring anything else out this year. The consideration is the national elections. What the announcement and the strategy has given me is the flexibility to decide whether I want to hold more through the national elections, do I want to send some more back before the national elections, that would be based on the situation on the ground.

RADDATZ: Those are scheduled now for?

ODIERNO: Well, I have an option, actually. The schedule now is for me to make a decision sometime in September to decide whether I go down another brigade or not.

RADDATZ: I mean, the national elections.

ODIERNO: I'm sorry. The national elections are scheduled right now for December, they could go as late as January.

RADDATZ: So, if you didn't bring out another brigade in the fall, you'd have at least 80,000 troops to move out of here from January or February through August?

ODIERNO: Yeah, I'd say about 70,000. We'd probably be at about 120,000 at that time down to 50,000 by August. But, I think we have a good plan in place to do that. And I think, again, I feel very comfortable that the window of risk is between October and February-March of 2010. And that will allow us then to do a more detailed and quick withdrawal of forces out of Iraq, because I think we will have gone through the toughest part and we'll be in a real stable stage that will enable us to do that very quickly.

RADDATZ: And would the plan be 10,000 a month, stagger it?

ODIERNO: We're working our way through that. It will be based again on what we think the conditions are and again we could move some out earlier if we think the conditions are good enough. If not, we will move them, staggered each month and it will be an even amount each month as we move out and we'll do it based on the least vulnerable to the most vulnerable.