Saturday, July 19, 2008
It's About Time
US presidential contender Barack Obama today said the situation in Afghanistan was the "precarious and urgent" as his overseas tour took him to US troops and the country's US-backed president.
In an interview broadcast after his meeting with Hamid Karzi, Obama also described Afghanistan as "the central front in the battle against terrorism".
His comments came amid conflicting reports about civilian casualties in a Nat air strike. An Afghan official said as many nine people were killed, Nato said four died.
The deaths could damage popular support for the Afghan government as well as for foreign forces operating in the country. Karzai has pleaded with the US and other nations fighting resurgent militants to avoid civilian casualties.
On the third day of his international tour, Obama and other American senators held two hours of talks with Karzai in his palace in the Afghan capital.
Obama has chided Karzai for not doing more to build confidence in the Afghan government.
US embassy spokesman Mark Stroh said the senators discussed the painstaking rebuilding of the country's government and economy, the security situation and corruption with Karzai.
The Afghan presidency said Obama's message was positive.
"Obama conveyed ... that he is committed to supporting Afghanistan and to continue the war against terrorism with vigour," said Humayun Hamidzada, Karzai's spokesman.
Both Democrats and Republicans "are friends of Afghanistan and no matter who wins the US elections, Afghanistan will have a very strong partner in the United States," Hamidzada said.
While officially part of a congressional delegation on a fact-finding tour also expected to take him to Iraq, Obama was travelling in Afghanistan amid the security accorded a likely Democratic nominee for president rather than a senator from Illinois.
Media access to Obama was limited, and his itinerary in the war zones was a closely guarded secret. The tour will include stops in Europe and the Middle East.
Note: Obama has long been a supporter of shifting at least two brigades from Iraq to Afghanistan (see his position papers in the summer of '07) Perhaps, just perhaps, we will get refocused on exactly WHERE we need to do battle to prevent the resurgence of the Taliban and Al-Queada. Good god. We've been running in place in Afghanistan since 2003. Note that Dubya has met with Karzai twice in the last year - once in the US and once in Egypt. You don't see him in Afghanistan.