Barack Obama arrives in Iraq

 Barack Obama arrives in Iraq

Barack Obama arrives in Iraq

Presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived in Iraq on Monday for talks with Iraqi officials and American military commanders in a 5-year-old war he has pledged to end, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said.

The trip to Iraq is Obama’s second after a visit in 2006 and follows a Saturday stop in Afghanistan, part of a closely watched overseas trip for the Illinois senator that will include other stops in the Middle East in Europe.

Obama has said that if elected, he would order the military to end the war in Iraq and commit more troops to Afghanistan.

Accompanying Obama is Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican member of the Foreign Relations Committee and an outspoken critic of the Iraq war.

“The senators have a busy day ahead of them, as they meet with senior Iraqi officials, coalition leadership and officials from the U.S. Embassy,” Embassy spokesman Armand Cucciniello said.

They also plan to meet with troops from their home states and U.S. civilians working in Iraq, Cucciniello said.

Obama’s trip comes on the heels of an article quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki as saying he backs Obama’s proposal to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months.
A spokesman for al-Maliki has since called the remarks appearing in Der Spiegel on Saturday”misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.”

Obama has made Afghanistan a key focus of his foreign policy, saying he would make it the central front in the “war on terror” if elected.

“The Afghan government needs to do more. But we have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan. And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism,” Obama said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I think one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq,” he said.

Obama said troop levels must increase in Afghanistan.

“For at least a year now, I have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three,” he told CBS. “I think it’s very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate our military activities. But military alone is not going to be enough.”
Obama met Sunday with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a leader the Democratic senator has criticized for not doing enough to rebuild the war-torn nation.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee met with Karzai in Kabul, the capital city, during Obama’s first visit to the Asian nation.

Karzai’s spokesman characterized the senator’s message as pleasant.

“They’re happy to be in Afghanistan. They reassured the support of U.S. people to Afghanistan,” Humayoon Hamidzada said.

Karzai met with the congressional delegation that includes Obama, and they discussed the achievements of the Afghan government as well as challenges such as terrorism, corruption and illegal drugs.
McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser criticized Obama on Sunday for “stubbornly adhering to an unconditional withdrawal that places politics above the advice of our military commanders, the success of our troops and the security of the American people.”

“Barack Obama is wrong to advocate withdrawal at any cost just as he was wrong to oppose the surge that has put victory within reach. It is a strategy for defeat, and it is the only strategy Barack Obama has ever supported,” Randy Scheunemann said in a statement.

Democrat-turned-independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, another McCain ally, echoed Scheunemann’s comments.

“John McCain had the guts to argue against public opinion, to put his whole campaign on the line, because, as he says, he’d rather lose an election than lose in a war that he thinks is this important to the United States,” Lieberman said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The fight in Afghanistan has become a more pressing issue on the political radar. Three times as many coalition soldiers and other military personnel have died in July in Afghanistan, compared with Iraq. July’s death toll for coalition troops reached 22 after the Friday death of a Canadian soldier was announced.

Nine U.S. soldiers were killed July 13 in a fight with about 200 Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan. It was the deadliest attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan in three years.


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