With General David Petraeus dedicating his full attention to his new role as head of Central Command, replacing Admiral William Fallon who reportedly referred to his eventual successor as “an ass-kissing little chickensh*t,” Lieutenant General Ray Odierno today has assumed control of US forces in Iraq.
Lt.-Gen Odierno will inherit 146,000 US troops in Iraq, nearly 20,000 more than when General Petraeus assumed the command in February of 2007. He will also inherit a recently extended troop freeze which will keep those levels unchanged at least through the end of the year.
At the ceremony, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates praised Petraeus in almost mythical tones, saying that before the General took over “Darkness had descended on this land, merchants of chaos were gaining strength. Death was commonplace,” and said that few envisioned seeing the US ever being able to succeed in Iraq. He then proclaimed that under Petraeus “the tide began to turn,” and “our enemies took a fearsome beating they will not soon forget”.
In somewhat related news, 38 Iraqis were killed yesterday, and in an interview last week the outgoing General Petraeus said he never expects to be able to use the word “victory” to describe what happens in Iraq.