Raymond Odierno, an American general who commanded American and coalition forces in Iraq at the height of the American invasion of the country, has died at the age of 67.
Odierno, who capped a 39-year career as the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, died on Friday, according to a statement released by the military on Saturday which said the cause of his death was cancer .
He served three tours in Iraq from 2003 to 2010 and became the Commander-in-Chief of all Allied forces in the war-torn country. In total, he spent more than 55 months in Iraq during the three tours.
Backed by the United Kingdom, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, claiming that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which it said posed a threat to the United States. However, no such weapon has ever been found in the Arab country.
More than a million Iraqis were killed as a result of the invasion and subsequent occupation of the country, according to California-based investigative organization Project Censored.
As commander of the 4th Infantry Division on his first tour of Iraq, Odierno helped lead the capture of Saddam, who was found hiding in a hole in the ground in 2003.
“It was very important for us to capture him to make sure he could never come back and terrorize the Iraqi people,” Odierno said in an interview.
Saddam’s imprisonment did not end the war, however, and instead an insurgency developed over the next two years.
In 2004, the insurgency gained momentum and led to the rise of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, a precursor to Daesh, which then invaded vast swathes of land in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The United States withdrew its troops from Iraq between 2007 and 2011, but redeployed them in 2014 with other partners to allegedly counter the threat from the terrorist group Daesh.
On January 3, 2020, the United States assassinated the legendary Iranian counterterrorism commander, General Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy leader of Hashd al-Sha’abi, in a strike of drone near Baghdad International Airport.
Two days later, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill demanding the expulsion of all US-led foreign military forces from the Arab country.
Since then, however, Washington has dragged its feet on troop withdrawal and occasionally targets counterterrorism groups.