ED DONAHUE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Barack Obama had few words as he emerged from his highly anticipated meeting with Iraqi leaders Monday.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (D): We had very constructive discussions.
DONAHUE: But the two sides appear to share a hope for when US combat troops will leave Iraq. Obama arrived first in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, where he greeted US troops. From there he traveled to Baghdad, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. An Iraqi spokesman says, while the country doesn’t endorse a fixed date, they hoped US combat troops would be out of Iraq sometime in 2010. That falls within the 16-month timetable Obama has proposed. The Bush administration opposes setting specific dates for troop withdrawal but did say last week it would be open to discussing a general time horizon.
MICHAEL O’HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Clearly, the overall trend of the last few months has made it possible to think of an earlier American departure from Iraq with most of its forces than we previously assumed. And so if Obama plays it right, that may help him, as long as he shows enough flexibility that he can adapt as circumstances change.
DONAHUE: Iraq is the third stop on Obama’s overseas tour, a trip designed to burnish his foreign policy credentials. National security issues are the one area where Obama trails Republican rival John McCain in the polls. McCain says Obama’s trip wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the success of the US troop surge, a policy McCain supported.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): The fundamental difference between myself and Senator Obama, when it was not popular to call for an increase in American troops and support the president’s plan for a surge, Senator Obama said it wouldn’t work and couldn’t succeed. I put everything on the line for it, because I’d rather lose a political campaign than lose a war.
DONAHUE: While all five surge brigades have left Iraq, there are still about 147,000 US soldiers in the country. Ed Donahue, the Associated Press.
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