After Meetings In Iraq, Obama Travels To Jordan

Barack Obama had a fruitful day of meetings Monday in Iraq with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and top U.S. commander Gen. David Petraeus. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is expected Tuesday in Jordan.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DEBORAH AMOS, host:

And I'm Deborah Amos. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama woke up today in Baghdad after a series of meetings Monday with Iraqi government leaders and U.S. military commanders. The Illinois senator seemed to find support among the Iraqis for his timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops by 2010.

Obama is now in neighboring Jordan and he spoke to reporters at an open air news conference.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): The U.S. government can't be there forever. The U.S. military can't be there forever. And so it's going to be important for the parties themselves, the Iraqi people, to make sure that they are dealing with these underlying tensions and concerns.

AMOS: That's Senator Barack Obama speaking today at a windy press conference in Amman, Jordan. NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with the candidate and he joins us now. Hi, Don.

DON GONYEA: Hi. Windy, hot and very sunny, I can tell you.

AMOS: Just like Amman. Don, Senator Obama has wrapped up his visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, Obama seemed to find support for his timetable for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq. But what is the future role he sees for the U.S. military there?

GONYEA: He still says that while - while he will listen to the advise that commanders on the ground give him, that the mission will change when he becomes president, and that mission will be to find a way to responsibly get American troops out of Iraq, combat troops, you know, leaving behind after 16 months or so, 2010, just enough to provide, you know, basic security and protection for American interests that are there, and you know, for a diplomatic force and others that are helping out the Iraqi government. But no big combat presence as we have now.

And he rejects that notion that he either has to eliminate all timelines or - or be seen as totally dismissing what commanders on the ground say to him. He says that's a false choice and he refuses to be put in that box.

But again, he said some weeks ago that after going to Iraq he could revise his positions, his policy positions a bit. We didn't get any revisions today. But it'll be interesting to see if we get any in the coming weeks and months.

AMOS: Well, at the same time he's calling for troop withdrawals in Iraq, he wants to put more in Afghanistan. So let's listen to one of the things he said at this press briefing.

Sen. OBAMA: The situation in Afghanistan is perilous and urgent. We must act now to reverse a deteriorating situation. I called over a year ago for additional U.S. troops to be placed in Afghanistan, as well as more non-military assistance and more support from our NATO allies.

AMOS: We're talking with NPR's Don Gonyea in Jordan. And Don, what exactly is Obama calling for in Afghanistan?

GONYEA: He has in the past said as many as 7,000 more troops. He didn't say that specifically today. Today he said maybe two or three more brigades. But he also highlighted something he learned, how porous that border is between Afghanistan and Pakistan and how difficult it is for the American military to do its job in there and to really try to track down terrorists as they move back and forth. He says that underscores how important it is to provide incentives for the Pakistani government to really work hard with the U.S. in this area.

AMOS: And what about the next stop on his journey? What's on the agenda there?

GONYEA: He will meet with political leaders in Israel. He will also visit a Southern border city where Israelis have taken rocket fire. And he says it's an example of a place that demonstrates how important security is there.

AMOS: Thanks very much, Don.

GONYEA: Thank you.

AMOS: NPR's Don Gonyea is traveling with Senator Barack Obama. He spoke with us from the Jordanian capital, Amman.

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