AMMAN, Jordan — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama defended his proposal Tuesday to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq over a 16-month period despite opposition to any time line from the U.S. commander, Gen. David Petraeus. More forces are needed to combat a perilous situation in Afghanistan, Obama said.
"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," Obama said after completing a four-day visit to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Looking ahead to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders today, the Illinois senator also pledged that, if elected president, he would provide "sustained energy and focus" to help forge a peace agreement ending their conflict. But he noted that "it's unrealistic to expect that a U.S. president alone can suddenly snap his fingers about bringing about peace in this region."
Obama flew to Israel late Tuesday after a meeting and dinner with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Declining to speak in detail about his discussions with Petraeus, Obama said that the U.S. commander wants as much flexibility as possible on troop strength.
Obama said he would neither ignore the advice of military commanders nor accept it outright. "The notion is, is that either I do exactly what my military commanders tell me to do or I'm ignoring their advice," Obama said. "No, I'm factoring in their advice but placing it in this broader strategic framework … that's required."
Obama, who opposed the troop surge policy that Petraeus has implemented, acknowledged that the shift in strategy initiated in early 2007 has helped reduce violence in Iraq. He also said there has been some, but not enough, progress on political reconciliation.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain supported the surge and has criticized Obama for failing to acknowledge its effects on security in Iraq.
Asked whether McCain deserved credit for pushing the policy, Obama replied: "I will leave it to the voters to make that decision."