Days before his retirement, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is emphasizing the need for the United States to continue its campaign against the Islamic State in the Middle East, describing the current U.S. position against the terrorist organization as a "stalemate."
AFP reported that Odierno said Wednesday that though the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) "has been blunted somewhat" in Iraq by U.S. airstrikes coupled with Kurdish and Iraqi ground forces, the military must make defeating the terrorist group its top priority.
"I think right now we are kind of at a stalemate and continue to make some progress," explained Odierno, who spent more time in Iraq than any other U.S. Army general. He also stressed the need for the U.S. to continue to rebuild the Iraqi forces.
He echoed comments made by the veteran general nominated to lead the Marine Corps earlier this month. While undergoing questioning from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R., Ariz.), Lt. Gen. Robert Neller likewise characterized the U.S. campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria as a "stalemate."
However, Obama administration officials–including the president himself–have touted the "progress" the United States has witnessed against IS.
At the end of July, the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the Obama administration bomb campaign launched last year against IS has yielded no perceivable degradation of the terrorist organization’s forces.
Odierno, who retires Friday, also spoke of the escalating difficulty of reaching reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, supposing that ultimately partitioning the country "might be the only solution."
"I think that is for the region and politicians to figure out, diplomats to figure out how to work this, but that is something that could happen," Odierno elaborated.
The focus, Odierno said, should first remain on defeating the Islamic State before attention can be turned to the relations between Sunnis and Shiites.
"We have to deal with ISIL first and decide what it will look like afterwards," the Army general explained.
Odierno has been critical of the Obama administration’s actions in the Middle East, especially when it comes to the Islamic State.
During an interview with Fox News last month, the outgoing Army general contended that the U.S. military could have thwarted the rise of IS had the Obama administration left troops in Iraq beyond 2011.
The Islamic State has recently been exhibiting signs of transforming into an actual functioning state, issuing identification cards and dispersing fishing guidelines in areas of Syria and Iraq that it controls.