U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama reiterated his commitment to a 16-month timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq but urged for a political solution. He arrived in Israel on the latest leg of his Mideast and European tour.
AMMAN, July 22 (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential
candidate Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was committed to a
16-month timetable for a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq,
after a trip in which he met Iraqi leaders and U.S. officials.
Obama was speaking in the Jordanian capital as part of a
tour of the region in which he has sought to shift the focus of
U.S. military efforts from Iraq to Afghanistan, where al Qaeda
and the Taliban are resurgent.
The question of when to withdraw some 147,000 U.S. troops in
Iraq overshadowed the first term senator's trip. Obama has made
his opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 a
centrepiece of his election campaign.
"What I have proposed is a steady, deliberate draw down over
the course of 16 months," he told a news conference in Amman.
Obama has said the draw down would enable more troops to be
deployed in Afghanistan, where insurgent attacks in the past two
months have killed more U.S. soldiers than in Iraq.
He described the situation in Afghanistan as "perilous and
urgent" and said al Qaeda and the Taliban were planning more
attacks in the United States.
"In Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan, al Qaeda
and the Taliban are mounting a growing offensive against the
security of the Afghan people and increasingly the Pakistani
people, while plotting new attacks against the United States,"
Progress in boosting stability and security in Iraq would
come from reconciling Iraq's feuding political groups, he said.
Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and American
military commanders in Baghdad on Monday. Earlier on Tuesday he
met Sunni Arab tribal leaders in western Anbar province, whose
decision to fight al Qaeda helped change the course of the
conflict in Iraq.
Jordan was the next stage on a multi-nation tour that will
include Israel, France, Germany and Britain.
U.S. strategy in Iraq and troop numbers are central issues
in the election race between the Illinois senator and Republican
candidate John McCain.
BROWN SEES CHANGE IN UK ROLE
In London, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told
parliament he expected to see a "fundamental change of mission"
for British troops in southern Iraq early next year.
The improved security situation in the Basra region meant
the 4,100 British troops based there would focus on training
Iraqi troops before gradually withdrawing from Iraq, he said.
Maliki told Obama and other U.S. lawmakers travelling with
him on Monday he hoped U.S. combat troops could be out of Iraq
in 2010, a goal not far apart from Obama's own pledge on
With violence at its lowest level since early 2004, Iraqi
officials have spoken with growing confidence about timetables
and timeframes for U.S. forces to leave.
"Iraqis want an aspirational timeline, with a clear date,
for the redeployment of American combat forces," said a
statement from Obama and the lawmakers travelling with him.
"(Maliki) stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be
out of Iraq in 2010."
McCain himself appeared to leave the door open on Monday to
a large-scale drawdown of U.S. troops in the next two years if
conditions on the ground were suitable, saying success had made
it possible for troops to return home.
His spokesman said the senator's comments did not reflect a
shift in position. McCain has long argued against setting a
timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal.
Some Iraqis believe their security forces are not ready and
that a premature removal of U.S. troops in Iraq could tip the
country back into widespread violence.
Maliki and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed last week to
set a "time horizon" for reducing U.S. forces in Iraq, the
closest Washington has come to acknowledging the need for a
Obama has criticised McCain and Bush for making Iraq the
centre of the battle against terrorism.
McCain has accused Obama of failing to acknowledge the
security gains in Iraq from a U.S. troop "surge" that Bush
ordered in early 2007. Bush deployed 30,000 extra soldiers to
try to drag Iraq back from all-out sectarian war. The last of
those reinforcements left Iraq at the weekend.
Date created : 2008-07-22