Gen. Raymond Odierno Says There Is a 'Window' for Success in Iraq

U.S. military leader says Iraq will be an economic and political challenge.

ByABC News
November 22, 2007, 5:12 PM

Nov. 22, 2007 — -- Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno will not say the United States is winning the war in Iraq, but he clearly thinks it.

"I think we have created a window. I think we can be successful here," he told ABC News today during a whistle-stop Thanksgiving tour of nine U.S. military bases in and outside Baghdad.

Other top military and civilian leaders have talked up the situation in Iraq in the past. But Odierno, the No. 2 general in Iraq under Gen. David Petraeus, is known as a straight shooter not given to hype.

His barely suppressed optimism was reinforced by a series of interviews with commanders on the ground. Casualties and roadside bomb attacks are down. An increasing number of citizens are abandoning the insurgency and coming over to the American side, registering as community police officers to bring back security to their neighborhoods.

"We're cautiously optimistic [about] the direction we're heading," said Lt. Col. John Kolasheski at Combat Outpost Cashe, southwest of Baghdad.

"It is a positive trend right now," said Lt. Col. Myron Reineke at Combat Outpost Aztec, south of Baghdad's troubled Dora neighborhood. "I am certainly grateful for that."

Odierno, whose troops captured Saddam Hussein during a previous deployment in 2003, said the United States has pushed al Qaeda extremists out of Baghdad. This has helped to sharply reduce violence in the capital, and they are now attempting to mop up al Qaeda cells in the provinces to the north, south and west.

Odierno said that a campaign of raids targeting Shiite militias, which began in December of last year, also contributed to the drop in killings in Baghdad.

But the general is not yet convinced that Iran has reduced its supply of weapons to militants in Iraq. He said that the United States has had some success in reducing foreign fighters crossing the border from Syria, and that has helped reduce the number of suicide bombings in Baghdad.

Expressing his frustration at the slow level of political reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites in the national government, Odierno said that, at a local level, Sunnis and Shiites who used to live together peacefully for decades are now starting to reconcile with each other as they are tired of the violence.