Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
US appoints new military commander in Iraq -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: The United States has installed a new military commander in Iraq, and he's begun his
duties by warning about just how difficult the situation still is.

Ray Odierno described the security gains made under the previous commander David Petraeus as
fragile and reversible.

Meanwhile in Canberra, the French Defence Minister has told his Australian counterpart that France
will not pull any troops out of Afghanistan despite the death of ten French soldiers there last
month.

Lisa Millar has our report.

LISA MILLAR: At a ceremony in one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces, the new commander in Iraq,
Ray Odierno officially took charge of the 146,000 strong force.

On his first day in office, he warned that the United States can't afford to rest on its laurels
and assume that the improvement in security in Iraq is permanent.

RAY ODIERNO: First we've got to protect the population, we want the Iraqi security force there to
take over the ability to protect the population.

We want to make sure Al-Qaeda is not able to, although they're still very dangerous, they're not
able to regenerate. We want to make sure militias, the Iraqis have done tremendous work in reducing
the influence of militias. We want to make sure that does not return. So those things do not
change.

LISA MILLAR: It's Ray Odierno's third tour of duty to Iraq, and he was part of the team led by
General David Petraeus which pushed for a surge of troops in the country, an approach that's been
regarded as successful.

Lydia Khalil is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and was a policy advisor for the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Baghdad.

LYDIA KHALIL: Well I think General Odierno is certainly a very competent general, he has an
excellent reputation outside and inside the military, and he was also a key component in
formulating Petraeus' counter-terrorism strategy and counter-insurgency strategy. So there is a
sense of continuity about him which makes this changeover not as abrupt.

However with any changeover, especially at this very fragile time in Iraq, where security gains can
be lost, insurgents and terrorists can take advantage of this. So there's a bit of apprehension at
least in the short-term with this change over.

LISA MILLAR: She's less optimistic about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan which she's
described as desperate.

Today the French Defence Minister Herve Morin was in Canberra visiting his Australian counterpart.

The French suffered one of their worst death tolls for the military last month when ten soldiers
were killed and 21 wounded near Kabul.

But like the Australian Government, the French Minister says there is no wavering on their
commitment to Afghanistan.

HERVE MORIN (translated): The idea of abandoning that mission has no basis whatsoever in France, no
support in France.

And it's very clear that decisions by countries to withdraw their troops would be a bad signal.

LISA MILLAR: Lydia Khalil again from the Lowy Institute.

LYDIA KHALIL: Well I think that's good news for Afghanistan and also for the international effort
there that the French are so committed. Because as we've been seeing Afghanistan really is in dire
straits.

You've had commitment from other European and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) allies who
have been faltering, we've seen problems in terms of co-ordination of command, because of the many
actors involved.

So this is a good sign I think, that the French are coming out very strongly and supporting other
positions of Australia, the United States and the UK, who also voiced a very strong commitment to
keeping our forces in there and also co-ordinating better in that theatre.

ELEANOR HALL: Lydia Khalil is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute, she was speaking with Lisa
Millar.