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General Urges Vigilance, Resolve in Terror War Fight

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2005 – No war has ever been won on a timetable, and the war in Iraq can be no exception, a former commander in Iraq who's now assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Dec. 2.

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Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to America Supports You grassroots representatives about the war on terror Dec. 2. The representatives were visiting the Pentagon as part of the first America Supports You grassroots summit. Photo by Sgt. Sara Wood, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, assistant to Marine Gen. Peter Pace and former commander of the 4th Infantry Division, told grassroots supporters of the military partnering with the America Supports You program that an artificial timetable is no way to begin troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Decisions about troop levels need to be condition-based, grounded in increasing self-reliance among Iraq's security forces, Odierno told group members who gathered here for an America Supports You summit. And even when U.S. troops leave Iraq, the United States must stand its guard against future terrorist activity, he said.

Several factors point to Iraqis' increasing self-reliance on the security front, the general said. They've assumed the lead in more operations, are taking responsibility for more territory, growing in readiness, and building leadership capability.

As this occurs, coalition forces are able to reduce their "footprint" in the region, he said. "We are making progress," Odierno told the group. "It is slow, but we are making good progress."

Now, as this progress continues, it's critical that Americans don't give up their resolve and throw in the towel before the mission is completed, he said. Doing so would hand the terrorists "a decisive victory," with a new safe haven in Iraq to recruit and train extremists and plan more attacks against the United States and its interests, he said.

"It's a battle of wills," Odierno said. "We must have American resolve. We have to hang in there on this."

Unlike many critics who keep watching the calendar, questioning when the troops can return home and the war can be declared over, terrorists are a patient enemy who "will wait us out," Odierno said.

"What they know they have on us is time," he said. "Their goal is to wait us out, have us lose interest, have us forget about (the threat they pose). And they think that is their strength."

Terrorists will wait as long as it takes to achieve their goal of a worldwide Islamic caliphate that rejects Americans' and the free world's way of life, he said. "We have to be aware of that. It has to be a constant fight to ensure we stay on top of this," Odierno told the group.

Confronting terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere around the world will be a long struggle that demands constant vigilance, Odierno said. "It is going to be something we have to constantly suppress and make sure that (terrorist groups) don't grow so they can affect our children and our grandchildren," he said.

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