While talking about the foreign policies they hope to pursue if elected, the two US presidential hopefuls (photo, from abcnews.com) have differed over Iraq, Afghanistan and the ‘war on terror’. On Tuesday they pledged in speeches to make the US a safer place.
Trying to bolster his commander-in-chief credentials, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, outlined five goals that he promised to adhere if elected president in November.
His priorities included “ending the war in Iraq, withdrawing troops responsibly, finishing the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, securing all nuclear weapons from world states that pose a threat and achieving true energy security and rebuilding foreign alliances”.
Mr Obama said that the war in Iraq “distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize”. The Illinois senator vows to shift the “single-minded” US focus from Iraq to al-Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe”, he said, before visiting Iraq and Afghanistan next week.
“If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan”, he said, criticising both George W. Bush, the current US president, and John McCain, his Republican opponent, over their Iraq strategies.
‘How to win wars’
The Republican candidate, John McCain, said that last year’s troop surge strategy success would be squandered by early troop withdrawals from Iraq, which could lead to chaos in the fragile country.
To the Arizona senator, Barack Obama “has it exactly backwards”.
During a speech delivered at Albuquerque, New Mexico, Mr McCain said that he knows more than his Democratic rival about “how to win wars”, adding that the troop increase strategies used in Iraq should also be applied to Afghanistan.
“When I’m commander-in-chief, there will be nowhere terrorists can run and hide”, said John McCain.
“Since he started his campaign two years ago, events have evolved in Iraq and elsewhere in the world and it’s certainly understandable that candidates will adapt and refine their positions as they get closer to election day”, PJ Crowley, Mr Obama’s campaign adviser, later told Al Jazeera.
Abdullah Schleifer, a journalism professor from the American University in Cairo, said: “It was very important for Obama to speak with great clarity on the issue of Iraq because he’s been under accusation from the Republicans on this issue, especially before he makes his trip to the Middle East he had to make a very clear statement.”
Barack Obama’s position over Iraq would find backers in the Arab world and in Europe, said Mr Schleifer, who added : “I think it will be appreciated in America as well.”