Election 2008

Obama's World Tour Stops In Afghanistan, Iraq

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Sen. Barack Obama visited Afghanistan before heading to Baghdad, on a road trip designed to prove the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate's foreign policy credentials. Obama will also head to Jordan this week.


From NPR News this is Weekend Edition. I'm Liane Hansen. Senator Barack Obama was in Afghanistan today, the first stop in a road trip designed to prove the Democratic presidential hopeful's foreign policy credentials. In Kabul, Obama had breakfast with U.S. troops and met with President Hamid Karzai. In an interview from Afghanistan with CBS News, the senator had this to say.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): 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.

HANSEN: With us is NPR's Don Gonyea who will be joining Senator Obama later this week when he heads to Jordan. And Don, this was Obama's first trip to Afghanistan. Tell us more about what he did, and what he had to say about U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

DON GONYEA: He met with U.S. soldiers who are stationed there, actually shared a meal with some of the troops. He also met with both U.S. commanders there and with NATO commanders. And then he wrapped things up with a meeting at the presidential palace, the heavily fortified presidential palace, as you can imagine, with the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, a person about which Senator Obama has had plenty of critical things to say about where things stand and what Afghanistan has done to really - the government there has done to really get things under control.

So that was the substance of what he was doing there. But there's also symbolism. Again, going to Afghanistan first on this trip does underscore, as we just heard from the senator, that he has always felt this is the main front in the fight against al-Qaeda and terrorism. That Iraq, Iraq the war, has been a distraction.

HANSEN: Tell us more about the senator's trip to Iraq, the next leg. What do you know about that?

GONYEA: It's the second leg, and second unannounced leg on this trip. The official trip starts in Jordan tomorrow. In Iraq, he'll do much of what he did in Afghanistan: meet the troops, meet the commanders, get a sense firsthand on what's going on there. And he has been to Iraq before, but he's not been there since January of 2006.

So as he formulates his policy and as he, you know, looks to the final four months or so of this campaign, he's no doubt looking for information that will help him shape policy and help him in the debate.

HANSEN: And in the less than a minute we have left, Don, preview the rest of the week. He goes to Jordan, Israel, and then to Europe. There's a major speech announced for Berlin. What's that about?

GONYEA: He is going to give one of those big, public, outdoor speeches that anybody can show up for. We've seen him do a lot of those in the States. But this one will be on foreign soil, in Berlin at the Victory Column. That's that 200-and-some-foot-high column with an angel, a gold angel, perched atop in the center of Berlin at the Tiergarten Park. It's an iconic place, and it'll be a pretty impressive backdrop. And it'll be very interesting to see what his message is to the public and to Europe and to the U.S. from there. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The Victory Column in Berlin is topped with a statue of the Goddess of Victory, not an angel.]

HANSEN: NPR's Don Gonyea. Don, thank you.

GONYEA: Thank you.

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Correction July 22, 2008

In this interview, we say the Victory Column in Berlin is topped with a statue of a "gold angel." It is actually a statue of the Goddess of Victory.



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