Obama's remarks today:
Good morning. I’d like to comment on the President’s speech. First, let me acknowledge the extraordinary and courageous work that our troops have done in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They have performed brilliantly under extremely difficult circumstances.
Today, President Bush announced very modest troop redeployments from Iraq. Meanwhile, we will continue to keep nearly 140,000 troops in Iraq while our military is overstretched, which is still at pre-surge levels. We will continue to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a $79 billion surplus. In the absence of a timetable to remove our combat brigades, we will continue to give Iraq’s leaders a blank check instead of pressing them to reconcile their differences. So the President’s talk of “return on success” is a new name for continuing the same strategic mistake that has dominated our foreign policy for over 5 years.
President Bush also announced additional troops for Afghanistan. I am glad that the President is moving in the direction of the policy that I have advocated for years. But the most substantial increase will come when an additional Army brigade is deployed five months from now – in February, after the President has left office. His plan comes up short – it is not enough troops, and not enough resources, with not enough urgency.
What President Bush and Senator McCain don’t understand is that the central front in the war on terror is not in Iraq, and it never was – the central front is in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the terrorists who hit us on 9/11 are still plotting attacks seven years later. Today, the Taliban is on the offensive, al Qaeda has a new sanctuary, and its leaders are putting out videotapes. Yet under President Bush’s plan, we still have nearly four times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan, and we have no comprehensive plan to deal with the al Qaeda sanctuary in northwest Pakistan.
Now, the choice for the American people could not be clearer. John McCain has been talking a lot about change, but he’s running for four more years of the same foreign policy that we’ve had under George Bush. Senator McCain will continue the overwhelming focus on Iraq that has taken our eye off of the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And Senator McCain goes even further than President Bush in opposing the sovereign Iraqi government’s own support for a timetable to redeploy our troops, and he has no plan to press the Iraqis to reconcile.
It’s time to change our foreign policy. I will succeed in Iraq by responsibly removing our combat brigades and pressing Iraqis to stand up for their future. I will rebuild our military. I will finally have a comprehensive strategy to finish the job in Afghanistan – with more troops, more training for Afghan security forces, more development resources, more anti-corruption safeguards, and more of a focus on eliminating the Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuary along the Pakistan border. And I will stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq so that we can invest in our economy here at home.
Last week, we heard a lot of tough talk in St. Paul, but we didn’t hear much about the Bush-McCain record. Because seven years after 9/11, we are still fighting a war without end in Iraq and we still haven’t taken out the terrorists responsible for 9/11. We heard no explanation for why Osama bin Laden is still at large, because that’s where George Bush and John McCain’s judgment has gotten us. President Bush’s speech today underscored that we cannot afford more of the same.