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Remarks of Senator Barack Obama - Amman, Jordan

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Good afternoon. It has been a privilege to be joined by Senator Jack Reed and Senator Chuck Hagel. I've been deeply impressed by their expertise and commitment to American national security. By any measure, they have rendered remarkable service to our country - in the Army, and in the United States Senate.

Before we open this up to questions, let me share some of the principal impressions that came out of our travel to Afghanistan and Iraq.

First and foremost, we were extremely impressed by the extraordinary job that's being done by our men and women in uniform. It's tough work, but our troops are performing brilliantly in difficult circumstances, and the same holds true for the dedicated diplomats and civilians with whom we met. All of us back home have reason to be proud, and we all support their heroic service.

We went to Afghanistan first because that it is the central front in the war against terrorism. That is where the 9/11 attacks were planned. And today - in Afghanistan and the border region of Pakistan - al Qaeda and the Taliban are mounting a growing offensive against the security of the Afghan people and increasingly the Pakistani people, while plotting new attacks against the United States.

The situation in Afghanistan is perilous and urgent. We must act now to reverse a deteriorating situation. I have called for over a year for additional U.S. troops, as well as more non-military assistance and more support from our NATO allies. I am glad that there is a growing consensus back home that we need more resources in Afghanistan. We should not wait any longer to provide them.

In our meetings with President Karzai and other Afghan leaders, I stressed my strong commitment to Afghanistan's security and economic development, and urged them to work on a 'more for more' basis - more U.S. and NATO support for Afghanistan, and more action from the Afghan government to take on corruption and counternarcotics, and to improve the rule of law and the lives of the Afghan people.

We also need a policy that compels Pakistani action against the terrorists who threaten our common security, just as we must deepen our relations with the Pakistani people and their recently-elected democratic government. Together, we must succeed in taking the fight to the terrorists in order to protect the American people. To do that, we must support lasting stability for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and opportunity for their people.

In Iraq, we reviewed the gains that have been made in lowering the level of violence thanks to the outstanding efforts of our military, the increasing capability of Iraq's Security Forces, the Sadr ceasefire, and the decision taken by Sunni tribes to take the fight to al Qaeda. We also noted that the political reconciliation and economic development necessary for long-term stability continues to lag. There is security progress - now, we must achieve a political solution.

The message that we heard from Iraq's leaders is that they are ready to do more, and they want to take responsibility for their country. I believe that the best way to support Iraqi sovereignty, and to encourage the Iraqis to stand up, is through the responsible redeployment of our combat brigades. I welcome the growing consensus - in the United States and Iraq - for a timeline. My view, based on the advice of military experts, is that we can redeploy safely in 16 months, so that our combat brigades are out of Iraq in 2010. As President, I will work with military commanders to assure that we redeploy out of Iraq carefully. And as I have said for the last two years, once we redeploy our combat brigades, we will retain the capability to protect our personnel, to target terrorists, and to train Iraqi Security Forces if there is political progress.

In speaking with Afghans and Iraqis, the U.S. military and civilians, we were struck by both the peril and the promise of this moment. If we responsibly end the war in Iraq, we can strengthen our military, step up our efforts to finish the fight in Afghanistan, and succeed in leaving Iraq to a sovereign government that can take responsibility for its future. In short, we can seize this moment to make America more secure, and to focus on broader challenges like defeating terrorism, reversing the spread of nuclear weapons, and achieving true energy security - challenges that I will discuss, among others, with some of our closest friends and allies in the days ahead.

I am honored to be here in Jordan, which has been an invaluable partner of the United States for many years, and I want to thank the people of Jordan for their friendship and hospitality.

Jordan's leadership is a source of pride for its own people, and I have long admired King Abdullah's example of moderation and modernization. I look forward to discussing opportunities to deepen our cooperation on the full range of security and economic challenges that we face in the region. I know that, as always, the King will be a valuable source of insight.

Now before we take some questions, I want to make a comment about the events in Jerusalem. Today's bulldozer attack is a reminder of what Israelis have courageously lived with on a daily basis for far too long. I strongly condemn this attack, and will always support Israel in confronting terrorism and pursuing lasting peace and security. Right now, my thoughts and prayers go out to all who were injured, and to their families.

With that, we'd be happy to take your questions.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 22, 2008 1:55 PM.

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