Sen. Barack Obama, on tour in the Middle East, and Sen. John McCain, on the campaign trail in New England, continue to spar over each other's Iraq policies and understanding of the situation in Afghanistan.
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In Amman, Jordan, today, Barack Obama fielded questions from reporters, the first time the presumptive Democratic nominee has done so on his weeklong overseas trip.
Obama was joined by fellow senators Democrat Jack Reed and Republican Chuck Hagel, who are traveling with him as a congressional delegation.
The Jordan stop comes after visits by the senators to Iraq yesterday and Afghanistan over the weekend. Before leaving Iraq, Obama was briefed by the commander of U.S. forces there, General David Petraeus.
Obama said today he understands the apprehension Petraeus has stated about a timetable for removing U.S. troops, but noted, if he's elected president, he would have to take into account other needs, like the hurting U.S. economy and the rising challenge in Afghanistan.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Ill.: If I were in his shoes, I'd probably feel the same way. But my job as a candidate for president and a potential commander-in-chief extends beyond Iraq.
And so what we saw in Afghanistan, for example, where you've got a deteriorating security situation, and all the commanders uniformly indicated that two to three brigades would be extraordinarily helpful in allowing them to accomplish their goals, the only way we're going to get those troops over there in a meaningful way is if we are taking them from someplace else.
So that's something that I have to factor in. I have to factor in the perceptions of the Iraqi people and the statements by Prime Minister [al-]Maliki and his spokespeople in public, that they are ready to see the Iraqi government take on more responsibility for security.
So the notion is, is that either I do exactly what my military commanders tell me to do or I'm ignoring their advice. No, I'm factoring in their advice, but placing it in this broader strategic framework that's required.
Obama was also pressed to describe what he thought the situation in Iraq would look like today if his troop withdrawal plan had been implemented instead of the surge.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA:
We don't know what would have happened if I — if the plan that I put forward in January 2007, to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation, to begin a phased withdrawal, what would have happened had we pursued that strategy.
I am pleased that as a consequence of great effort by our troops, but also as a consequence of a shift in allegiances among the Sunni tribal leaders, as well as the decision of the Sadr militias to stand down, that we've seen a quelling of the violence.
But as I emphasized a year ago, two years ago, and as I have to emphasize today, ultimately whether or not we're going to have a functioning Iraq is largely going to depend on the capacity of the Iraqi people to unify themselves, to get beyond some of the sectarian divisions that have plagued the country, and to start setting up a government that is working for the people.