In today’s confirmation hearing, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) asked Gen. Raymond Odierno what the “end point” of U.S. military involvement in Iraq would be. “In military terms, what do you see as the end point in our strategic direction here with respect to our involvement in Iraq?” Webb asked.
Odierno responded that the “end point” would be when Iraq has a “self-reliant government,” a “professionalized security” force, and major political reconciliation. Webb asked what the U.S. presence should be if those conditions are met:
WEBB: Well, what — what is the end point of the United States’ involvement in Iraq? Let’s say that Iraq meets the conditions you just talked about. Should there be a United States military presence in Iraq?
ODIERNO: I think that’s a discussion we would have along several levels. Not only from the MNF-I command or the Central Command level and obviously our civilian leadership to decide what their policy would be in the future toward Iraq.
WEBB: Do you believe that if those conditions are met, there would be a need for the United States military in Iraq?
ODIERNO: I do not. I believe what we would want, though, is to maintain obviously military contacts as we do with many countries over the world.
Odierno’s statement pours cold water on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) infamous claim that the U.S. should “maintain a presence” in Iraq, for as much as 100 or 10,000 years. “Fine with me,” McCain says, “as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.”
But as Odierno said today, in the case that those conditions are met (a “big if,” as Max Bergmann notes), the U.S. military does not “need” to keep troops in the country. “That’s a very important clarification,” Webb concluded.