The Army's top officer was initially curt in his response to a retired general's provocative new book that argues the U.S. lost the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"First of all, I haven't read the book," Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said on Wednesday at Atlantic Media's Defense One conference in Washington, D.C. "I have absolutely zero thoughts on it."
He was responding to a question from the moderator, NPR Pentagon reporter Tom Bowman, who asked Odierno for his thoughts on a passage from retired Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger's new book, "Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars."
Bowman paraphrased a passage from the book, which reads, "I am a United Sates Army general, and I lost the Global War on Terrorism. It's like Alcoholics Anonymous; step one is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. So do my peers."
He said Bolger argues that the U.S. succeeded in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in the 1990s, but not in Operation Iraqi Freedom nor in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan over the past decade in part because allied forces haven't been able to leave the countries to the control of local forces.
After withdrawing American troops from Iraq in 2011, the U.S. military returned to the country earlier this summer to help coordinate airstrikes against Islamic militants as part of a mission called Operation Inherent Resolve.
The al-Qaeda-inspired Sunni extremist group, known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, still controls vast parts of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria. It recently circulated video showing a fighter beheading the American aid worker and former Army Ranger Peter Kassig -- the latest in a series of executions of Western prisoners.
The U.S. has about 1,400 troops in Iraq, most of which are serving as advisers to Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Baghdad and Erbil. President Barack Obama this month authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more troops to better advise — and train — Iraqi forces. The additional service members are expected to deploy to the country over the next 30 to 45 days.
Odierno dismissed Bulger's book as "one man's opinion." When Bowman responded that "he's a three-star general, he's not some think-tank guy," Odierno rejected the idea of comparing Operation Desert Storm to Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Is Desert Storm the same as OIF? Was it the same operation?" Odierno asked. "So why would you compare it? I mean, what we did is we expelled Iraq from Kuwait -- very different from overthrowing a government and replacing its leader. It's apples and oranges. It's not the same operation ... It's not a fair comparison."
Later, when asked whether he worked with political leaders to establish the end state in Iraq, Odierno said, "I keep those conversations private." Then, to applause from the crowd, he added, "I don't write a book and talk about it."