Obama Delivers Bold Speech About War on Terror
Presidential Candidate Pushes Aggressive Stance Toward (Mullah Military Alliance in) Pakistan
By JAKE TAPPER (ABC News)
Aug. 1, 2007
In a strikingly bold speech about terrorism Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Sen. Barack Obama called not only for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, but a redeployment of troops into Afghanistan and even Pakistan — with or without the permission of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
“I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges,” Obama said, “but let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
Obama’s mention of an “al Qaeda leadership meeting” refers to a classified military operation planned in early 2005 to kill al Qaeda leaders including Osama bin Laden’s top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri in Pakistan’s tribal regions. First reported in The New York Times earlier this month, the mission was “aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.”
In many ways, the speech is counterintuitive; Obama, one of the more liberal candidates in the race, is proposing a geopolitical posture that is more aggressive than that of President Bush. It comes at a time in Obama’s campaign when the freshman senator is drawing more financial support from more voters than any other candidate, though he has yet to vault from his second-place position in the polls. One of the reasons for that is that the Democratic front-runner, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, is seen as more experienced and in some ways stronger, a perspective Obama wishes to change.
The speech, delivered at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., seems an attempt by Obama to ramp up his campaign to the next phase, where he hopes to seem not only a youthful idealist, but a president who would pursue a muscular foreign policy and protect the United States from terrorist attack.
One of the ways he hopes to achieve this is by pointing out the inherent flaws in the complicated U.S.-Pakistan relationship, an uneasy alliance based in part on U.S. fears of an Islamist government that might replace Musharraf. But Obama proposed in his speech a more aggressive stance with that nuclear nation, making the “hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.”
Additionally Obama called for at least two additional brigades to redeploy to Afghanistan to re-enforce U.S. counterterrorism operations and support NATO’s efforts against the Taliban. This would be accompanied by political and economic efforts, Obama said, pledging to increase nonmilitary U.S. aid to Afghanistan by a whopping $1 billion.
The shift from Iraq to Afghanistan and possibly even Pakistan is one of five elements he called for in his speech. The other four are improving diplomacy for the purpose of counterterrorism and counterproliferation; creating a $5 billion Shared Security Partnership Program that he will say will “forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks around the globe; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.”
The speech comes one week after Obama engaged in an increasingly heated back and forth with Clinton about whether a president should readily agree to meet with leaders of countries hostile to the United States. Obama said he would, Clinton said she wouldn’t, and a forceful back and forth ensued.
Clinton fired the first salvo, calling Obama’s willingness to meet with men like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or Cuban dictator Fidel Castro “irresponsible and frankly naive.” Obama fired back, saying “If anything is irresponsible and naive, it was authorizing George Bush to send 160,000 young American men and women into Iraq apparently without knowing how they were going to get out.”
At a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Obama implied her policy would be “Bush-Cheney Lite.” Clinton took to CNN to respond, saying their debate “is getting kind of silly. I’ve been called a lot of things, but I’ve never been called Bush or Cheney. You have to ask what happened to the ‘politics of hope.'”
In the speech excerpts, Obama makes no mention of Clinton directly, though he implicates her decision to vote to authorize use of force in Iraq as aiding al Qaeda. “By refusing to end the war in Iraq,” he said, “President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.”
Obama, whose father was Muslim, makes clear that he does not share the views of Democrats who downplay the risk of Islamist terrorism. In language rare for a Democratic presidential candidate, Obama talked about Muslims who seek to create a repressive caliphate. “To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for. (ABC News)
In Kabul, Obama calls Afghan front ‘central’ to war on terror
By Carlotta Gall and Jeff Zeleny
Published: July 20, 2008 (International Herald Tribune)
KABUL: Afghanistan must become “the central front” in the war on terror, Barack Obama said Sunday in the Afghan capital, sharpening his policy clash with John McCain over whether the war in Iraq has been a distraction from that effort.
Obama has pledged to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan and to focus more on terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.
“We have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan, and I believe this has to be the central focus, the central front, in the battle against terrorism,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
In a nearly two-hour lunch with President Hamid Karzai and other top Afghan officials, Obama “conveyed that he is committed to supporting Afghanistan and to continuing the war against terrorism with vigor,” said Homayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Karzai, who did not comment directly on Obama’s proposed strategy in Afghanistan.
McCain, Obama’s presumptive foe in the autumn U.S. presidential election, questioned his judgment on foreign policy. In a radio address Saturday, he said Obama had been wrong about the increase in troops in Iraq, a strategy McCain said should be the basis for addressing deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan.
As the U.S. presidential campaign unfolded across borders and time zones, Obama appeared to receive support from an unexpected corner: the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who told a German magazine that he endorsed the Obama plan to withdraw most U.S. troops over a period of 16 months. However, a spokesman for Maliki later said the prime minister had been misquoted.
On the first day of his trip, Obama flew to eastern Afghanistan to get a look at the region where U.S. troops are feeling the brunt of increased attacks from militants infiltrating from nearby Pakistan. In selecting Afghanistan as the opening stop of his first overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic nominee, he was seeking to highlight what he says is its importance as the key front in the fight against terrorism.
“Losing is not an option when it comes to Al Qaeda, and it never has been,” Obama told CBS.
Obama’s weeklong tour is expected to take him next to Iraq, then Jordan, Israel and Western Europe, in a bid to counter criticism of his ability to serve on the world stage in time of war. It carries a political risk for Obama, particularly if he makes a mistake – the three U.S. broadcast network news anchors will be along for parts of the trip. But his advisers believe the trip offers an opportunity for him to be seen as a leader who can improve the image of the United States.
“We need to rehabilitate some of these relationships – they’ve frayed over the last seven years,” Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, an Obama supporter and potential running mate, said Sunday on Fox News. “Rallying global opinion to America’s side is an important responsibility for a president.”
Speaking before he left Washington for a trip cloaked in secrecy because of security concerns, Obama said: “I’m more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking. And I think it is very important to recognize that I’m going over there as a U.S. senator. We have one president at a time.”
Even as Americans’ economic concerns mount, the presidential race has become something of a foreign policy debate, with the candidates offering very different backgrounds and approaches to national security.
Obama landed in Kabul on Saturday, his aides said, after stopping to visit and play basketball with U.S. troops in Kuwait. In Afghanistan, he received a briefing from military commanders at Bagram Air Base and met with Karzai on Sunday before heading to Iraq.
While the Iraq war remains a dominant campaign issue, Afghanistan has moved to the forefront of both candidates’ foreign policy plans. President George W. Bush’s agreement to “a general time horizon” for withdrawing troops from Iraq has opened the door to new consideration of strengthening the U.S. and NATO presence in Afghanistan, with which Obama and McCain both agree, in principle.
For months, McCain has criticized his rival for failing to visit Afghanistan and taking only one trip to Iraq. McCain renewed his criticism Saturday. “In a time of war,” McCain said, “the commander in chief’s job doesn’t get a learning curve.”
McCain’s campaign spokeswoman suggested that Obama was embarking on a campaign rally overseas.
Republicans carefully watched Obama’s trip, which is rare in profile and scope for a presidential candidate. The White House also made clear that it was monitoring Obama’s travels, accidentally sending an internal e-mail message to journalists of the news report that Maliki supported Obama’s proposed 16-month timeline for withdrawing combat troops from Iraq.
In an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Maliki said he was not endorsing Obama’s candidacy but called his proposal “the right time frame for a withdrawal.” However, a spokesman for Maliki said Sunday that the remarks had been “misunderstood and mistranslated,” although he did not say how. Spiegel said on its Web site that it stood by its version.
Obama referred to Maliki’s comment in his CBS interview and said that while there had been security and political improvements, a timetable would goad Iraqi leaders to move faster, making this “the perfect moment for us to say we’re going to shift our resources, we’re going to get a couple more brigades into Afghanistan.”
Some military leaders have expressed doubts about a quick withdrawal. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Fox News on Sunday that a withdrawal of all combat troops within two years “could be very dangerous” and fuel instability.
The Spiegel interview was far from helpful to the McCain campaign, and McCain aides and surrogates sought to clarify Maliki’s remarks.
“I think everybody – that is Prime Minister Maliki, President Bush, people like John McCain and I – agree the sooner we are out the better,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who supports McCain. “It has to be based on the conditions on the ground. Senator Obama doesn’t seem to feel that way.”
Obama is set to meet with a series of presidents, prime ministers and opposition leaders during his travels, which include three European capitals, including Berlin, where he is to give a major speech Thursday. In Afghanistan, he was joined by Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, and Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, both of whom have been mentioned as possible Obama running mates.
Afghans in Kabul said they knew nothing of the visit, and some did not know who Obama was. But some who had heard of him said they liked his message, in particular that he would pursue Al Qaeda in Pakistan.
“So far what he is talking about is what Afghans want to hear: reduce troops in Iraq, focus on Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan,” said Ashmat Ghani, an influential tribal leader from just south of the capital who has criticized Karzai.
Yet other Afghans interviewed were skeptical that a new U.S. president would make much of a difference for them.
Jeff Zeleny reported from Washington. Larry Rohter contributed reporting from New York and Brian Knowlton from Washington.