New commander of US-led forces in Iraq - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

New commander of US-led forces in Iraq

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq. - General David Patraeus has handed over command of the US-led forces to his successor, General Raymond Odierno.

General Odierno has had two tours of duty in Iraq - from 2003 to 2004 and from December 2006 to March 2008. In the latter, and as deputy to commander David Petraeus, he implemented the so-called "surge" strategy, which he had also proposed. Under that strategy, US troops were poured into Baghdad and Al-Qaeda militants were flushed out.

The US defence secretary Robert Gates attended the hand-over ceremony in Baghdad along with top Iraqi officials. 

 Odierno has consistently been against US troop reduction in Iraq, but some eight thousand US soldiers are due to quit in January 2009. The new commander in Iraq on Tuesday seemed to be keen to adapt, saying that, "the cut [in US forces] will be automatically replaced by Iraqi forces", and that further reductions would depend on consultations with the authorities in Baghdad.

The outgoing commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, is promoted to head the US Central Command, overseeing US miliary operations in the region. 

When Petraeus took over the operation in Iraq in February 2007, the country seemed headed into all-out civil war. The US says the level of violence began falling signficantly after the end of 2007, and has reached a four-year low. Iraq is now in charge of security in eleven of the 18 provinces.

Iraq is negotiating a security agreement with the US to determine troop levels after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of 2008.
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