July 21st, 2008
06:44 AM ET
12 years ago

Obama meets with military commanders, officials in Iraq

Obama arrived in Iraq Monday.

Obama arrived in Iraq Monday.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) - Barack Obama - the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate who has made ending the Iraq war a cornerstone of his historic run for office - huddled on Monday with Iraqi officials and coalition military commanders about the status of the grinding, bloody conflict, now in its sixth year.

It is the Illinois senator's second trip to Iraq, after a visit in 2006, and the latest leg of his overseas trip, which began in Kuwait and Afghanistan and will continue on to Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Germany, France and England.

Obama - who is accompanied by two key Senate colleagues - arrived Monday afternoon in the southern city of Basra, according to U.S. Embassy spokesman Armand Cucciniello.

Obama met with Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq; British Maj. Gen. Barney White Spunner, commander of Multi-National Division South East; and Iraqi Army's 14th Division Commander Maj. General Abdul Aziz.

Obama then traveled to Baghdad, where he was to meet Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. troops in Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Obama is traveling with Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, a leading Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and is an outspoken GOP critic of the Iraq war.

"The senators have a busy day ahead of them, as they meet with senior Iraqi officials, coalition leadership and officials from the U.S. Embassy," Cucciniello said, adding that the senators also plan to meet with troops from their home states and U.S. civilians working in Iraq.

Obama's candidacy has generated popularity overseas.

A recent Pew Research Center survey said "people around the world who have been paying attention to the American election express more confidence in Barack Obama than in John McCain to do the right thing regarding world affairs."

Obama has said that if elected, he will commit more troops to Afghanistan and would order the military to end the war in Iraq, which he has called "dangerous distraction" from the battle in Afghanistan.

Obama spent Saturday and Sunday in Afghanistan, where he met with U.S. troops at three bases and with Afghan President Hamid Karzai - a leader the Democratic senator has criticized for doing too little to rebuild the war-torn nation.

The fight in Afghanistan has recently become a more pressing issue on the political radar and more coalition forces have died in Afghanistan than Iraq in May, June and so far in July.

This month's death toll for U.S. and allied troops reached 24 Saturday, after incidents Sunday in southern and eastern Afghanistan left two soldiers dead. At least nine U.S. troops have died in Iraq this month.

But the fight persists in Iraq, where U.S. and Iraqi troops regularly conduct raids against both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups and militants regularly conduct bombings. The U.S. military announced Monday more operations as Obama visited Iraq.

On Sunday and Monday, troops seized "an alleged senior adviser for al Qaeda in Iraq's Mosul network" and detained 10 additional suspects in Mosul and Baghdad.

Early Monday, troops detained a suspected propaganda specialist for the Hezbollah Brigades, a home-grown cell described as an "offshoot of Iranian-trained Special Groups."

The Hezbollah Brigades in Iraq is distinct from the more well-known Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. "Special Groups" is the term the U.S. military uses to describe Iranian-backed Shiite militants in Iraq.

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain criticized Obama's proposals as naive and premature. He has said Obama was wrong to talk about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he "even left, before he has talked to Gen. Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq and before" his first visit to Afghanistan, which happened Saturday and Sunday.

"In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: First, you assess the facts on the ground; then you present a new strategy," McCain said.

Last week, in a major address laying out his foreign policy position, Obama said, "As should have been apparent to President Bush and Sen. McCain, the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was."

He said part of his strategy would be "taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan."


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Marcus Allen

    That's kinda funny, since he's voted against winning the war for 3 years so far. His strategy for "winning" is in reality a retreat. No message-of-the-day on a podium can hide that loosing Iraq has been his plan all along.

    July 21, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. Jerry in Boston

    Is it just me, or is Obama only being photographed with black soldiers?

    July 21, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  3. Mike - Texas

    It is about time!!

    But one meeting does not even begin to give you enough insight as to what all is going on.

    One meeting is just a "sound bite" about what is really happening.

    How can you make ANY decisions based on 1 meeting???

    In a word NO. But I bet Obama will.

    July 21, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  4. VON BISMARK, Vienna

    Every soldier has a command baton in his sack mcfinger-on-trigger knows this.

    The big question at this point is whether McCain is seeking to be elected president of war in Iraq or the President of the United States?

    Like Unoka of Chinua Achebe's THINGS FALL APART brightening up when he hears the sound of music mcWAR's face always come back to life when the sound of a gun is mentioned in a conversation.The numbers of american and iraqi lives claimed by this senseless war means nothing to mcWAR who "hates?" war.This guy is leaving in a different world.

    July 21, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  5. scotty

    Now that you have given your plans, I applaud you for finding out what the people actually fighting have to think. But are not some of the things you have suggested already been happening over there?

    July 21, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  6. Tony

    If Obama's answer to the Iraq war is to pull the troops out of Iraq and send them to Afghanistan, rather than home, HE JUST LOST MY VOTE!!

    Typical politician. ALL TALK!

    July 21, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  7. Jimmy P

    Funny how he's always surrounded by like colored folks, for the most part! Inexperienced stooge!!

    July 21, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  8. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    what dose it mater. According to Obama he is going to pull the troops out no mater what he is told by the generals.

    BTW, Anyone take notice that bush ended the executive ban on offshore drilling and over the next week oil fell $16 a barrel( the largest downturn in oil ever).Looks like all you saying that lifting the ban would not affect the market for ten years were way off.

    July 21, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  9. California Gold

    I hope McCain and his followers read and retain. Obama has, in fact, been to Iraq before this trip. The Republican party's candidate and campaign has thus far been a cloth woven of distortions, out right lies, and criticism of the apparently front runner.

    Seems Obama is doing a fine job of diplomacy. Such a simple concept: "...huddled on Monday with Iraqi officials and coalition military commanders about the status of the grinding, bloody conflict, now in its sixth year."

    He will be amazed with his visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Wonderful places and pro-USA. I returned from there 6 months ago.

    July 21, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  10. DMAC in ID

    He should make a public apology, covered by the media around the world, to Sen McCain and all the troops from around the world that have been fighting in Iraq and took part in the surge, But he won't. Because it will show how uninformed and bull headed he is. We already have one of those in the White house.

    July 21, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Yes we can!

    Obama 2008/2012!

    July 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  12. Foreign observer

    That´s what a good meeting is about ... to give a strategic vision and not only to talk military tactics.

    July 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Fed-up democrat

    Please, CNN, stop torturing us with more news on Obama. The press including all of the major TV networks and CNN are suffocating us with news of Obama and his trip to Iraq. It is not breaking news and there are more substantial news out there that deserve press coverage over this mindless over and over talk about Obama. Let's move on to something else which has more substance.

    I hope, like with the Britney Spears coverage, that people get disgusted with this excessive coverage and instead of it drawing us to Obama, it makes us want to not see or hear of him anymore. That;s the stage I have reached and we still have 4 more months to go before the elections. Please stop tormenting us with him because I have had enough of it.

    July 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  14. Foreign observer

    In case an Irak civil war is going to start the American troops can´t hinder them. Terrorists are a matter of local Irakian police authorities. So why to stay for a nondefined timeline ?

    July 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  15. benvictor

    How many sets of "training wheels" does Obama need? This ONE week jaunt, he hopes, will earn him his "training wheels" in foreign policy/national security. But, when does he earn his training wheels for economic, health care, and all the other issues? Is the American taxpayer footing the bill for these jaunts? With cameras and reporters in tow, this thing is as shallow as Obama's experience is shallow. Thankfully, the Olympics are here and this other nonsense will take its rightful place in obscurity.

    July 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Sylvia

    Well, that is your experience, McCain, and it has been ineffective.

    July 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. IQ


    July 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  18. Ken

    Obama might be traveling and so called "listening", but I see it as strictly a big "Photo Op". No matter what others say, Obama is doing this strictly as a way to insure his own personal goals.

    Obama will NOT win in November unless he puts Hillary Clinton on the ticket. I am one of many that unless Hillary is on the ticket with Obama, will end up voting for McCain. Making sure that at least we will have someone that has the skills, talent and experience to be our next President.

    Obama/Clinton 2008

    July 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  19. Lorna, NY

    He is so Presidential!

    July 21, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  20. Turning the page

    Almost every Obama photo I have seen during his visit, he's shown with majority black or only black army personnel. Is the media at it's games again?? Hmmm!!!!!!!

    July 21, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |