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Odierno takes charge in a 'fragile' Iraq

Gen. David Petraeus, who handed over command on Tuesday to Gen. Raymond Odierno, will lead US Central Command.

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But Odierno is now working with Iraqi security forces, which include police and all branches of the military, that are increasingly able to take on militants. A bigger Iraqi military "will compensate for the number of troops we're losing from the coalition," says Gen. Nasier Abdi, vice chief of the Iraqi Army. Consequently, he says that Odierno will have to manage a shift to a larger advising role for US forces.

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Although Petraeus leaves his position commander of US forces in Iraq, he will maintain an active role in the county in his new job as head of the US Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia.

"The main uncertainties at this point are probably in Washington rather than in Iraq," says James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, a US think tank.

No major changes are anticipated in Iraqi political leadership. Even US Ambassador Ryan Crocker is expected to remain in office for at least the first several months after the next president takes office.

The US political future, however, is much more amorphous, says Mr. Dobbins. "In Washington you'll have a new administration with new priorities, a growing demand for troops in Afghanistan, and a diminished appetite for the war in Iraq."

Winning the confidence of a new US president, he says, will probably be one of Odierno's biggest challenges.

The new command position marks Odierno's third tour in Iraq. On his first, he commanded the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in the initial invasion of Iraqi in 2003. A number of analysts, notably the author of "Fiasco," Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks, have criticized the 4ID under Odierno for using harsh tactics. Odierno, however, rejects this characterization, saying that the situation still called for an aggressive posture.

During his second tour he worked as Petraeus's deputy commander responsible for operational planning. He worked with Petraeus to improve the US military's counterinsurgency strategy and better relations with Iraqis.

For Odierno, the Iraq war bears a personal connection, too. In August 2004, his son Tony, a US Army captain, lost an arm when a grenade struck his vehicle during a patrol in Baghdad.

Gen. Raymond Odierno

• A native of New Jersey, he is married with three children.

• He attended the US Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1976 with a commission in the field artillery. He also has master's degrees in nuclear effects engineering and national security and strategy from North Carolina State University and the Naval War College, respectively.

• In 32 years of service, he has commanded units at every level with duty in Germany, Albania, Kuwait, Iraq, and the US.

• From October 2001 to June 2004, Odierno led the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), commanding it during the first year of the Iraq war.

• He served as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, where he was the military adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Source: Multinational Corps-Iraq

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