The Army’s top officer told Fox News Tuesday it’s “frustrating” to watch the gains he helped achieve in Iraq disintegrate at the hands of the Islamic State, saying in an exit interview that the chaos now unfolding “might have been prevented” had the U.S. stayed more engaged.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, weeks away from retirement after 39 years in uniform, spent more time in Iraq than any other U.S. Army general — more than four years, the last two as top commander. He is widely viewed as a key architect of the Iraq surge.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, the general tackled a range of topics, from the Iran nuclear deal to the deep cuts to U.S. Army troop levels. But Odierno had pointed words on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria – suggesting it didn’t have to be this way.
“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”
Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.
Read More: Army chief Odierno, in exit interview, says US could have ‘prevented’ ISIS rise | Fox News