Obama, McCain Address Iraq, Afghanistan

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Democrat Barack Obama has said the U.S. must end the war in Iraq and "win" the war in Afghanistan. In a separate speech, Sen. John McCain has said the strategy of increasing troop levels in Iraq should be applied to Afghanistan.


John McCain and Barack Obama weren't in the same room today. They weren't even in the same state. But that didn't stop the two presidential candidates from sparring with each other across time zones.


At issue, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the two men's very different visions for what constitute success in those conflicts. Senator Obama spoke in Washington, D.C. this morning. In a wide-ranging speech, he outlined five goals that he believes will make America safer. And he pointed out how his approach differed from his opponents.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): Senator McCain would have our troops continue to fight tour after tour of duty, and our taxpayers keep spending $10 billion a month indefinitely. I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. That is victory. That is success. That's what best - that is what is best for Iraq, that is what is best for America, and that's why I will end this war as president.

In fact, it should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain. The central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. And that's why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SIEGEL: Obama went on with another jab at his political rival.

Sen. OBAMA: Senator McCain said just months ago that Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq. I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that is why, as president, I will make the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war we have to win.

NORRIS: John McCain responded at a town hall meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): My friends, the situation in Iraq is much improved and another test awaits whoever wins the election. And we all know it's the war in Afghanistan. The status quo is not acceptable. Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated and our enemies are on the offensive. From the moment the next president walks in to the Oval Office, he will face critical decisions and crucial decisions about Afghanistan.

Senator Obama will tell you we can't win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan. It's…

(Soundbite of applause)

Sen. McCAIN: …it's by applying the tried and true principles of counterinsurgency used in the surge, which Senator Obama oppose, that we will win in Afghanistan.

With the right strategy and the right forces, we can succeed in both Iraq and Afghanistan and they are not disconnected. Success breeds success. Failure breeds failure. I know how to win wars. I know how to win wars. If I'm elected president, I'll turn around the war in Afghanistan just as we have turned around the war in Iraq with a comprehensive strategy for victory.

SIEGEL: Although the two candidates were sharply critical of each other, it seems they do agree on one point at least, that the military situation in Afghanistan is bad and it's getting worse.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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