'Time Is Running Out' in Iraq

ByABC News
January 15, 2007, 3:26 PM

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 15, 2007 — -- In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the top commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq, says the current surge of 21,500 troops is not "open-ended" and warned that "time is running out" for the United States to turn things around in Iraq.

ABC News' Jonathan Karl interviewed Odierno earlier today in Baghdad.

Odierno said "time is running out" for a number of reasons, including domestic pressures at home. "Not so much the political environment," he said, "but the support for this in the United States."

The head of Multi-National Corps-Iraq also cited concerns about another renewal of the United Nations resolution that allows the presence of multi-national forces in Iraq. He also has concerns about potential limitations on authority that might be imposed if the resolution is extended again. The U.N. Security Council Resolution 1723 expires on December 31, 2007.

Speaking of President Bush's decision to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, Odierno said, "Whether it's the last chance or not, I'm not willing to go that far, what I will say, it's not open-ended."

Odierno acknowledged that the pressures from home for the operation to succeed are not lost on American troops fighting in Iraq. "The American people want to see some success," he said. "I think that's the frustrating part to themthey understand these are great soldiers and they don't understand why we're not showing success, and so I think it's important for them to see some success."

The top commander of U.S. ground forces in Iraq is willing to give the Iraqi government the benefit of the doubt in its commitment to fully rein in the extremist sectarian militias. "They're going to allow their military commanders to do military work without being interfered with, so I think they've really made all the right statements so far," he said.

But according to Odierno, the effort to defeat the extremists will involve more than just a military effort. He believes a large percentage of the militias will be absorbed by the Iraqi reconciliation process. "It'll be that small number of extremists that we have to deal with."