Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Obama: "No military solution in Iraq"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Democrat Barack Obama said Tuesday the recent increase in American troops in Iraq may well have helped tamp down violence, but he insisted there is no military solution to the country's problems and U.S. forces should be redeployed soon.
Obama spoke a day after his main Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, made similar comments. She said the tactics of the short-term troop increase were working but political progress did not seem to be in sight and the U.S. should begin bringing some troops home.

Obama said in a telephone briefing, "If we put 30,000 additional troops into Baghdad, it will quell some of the violence short term. I don't think there is any doubt about that."

But that won't solve Iraq's critical political problems, he said in the call and again later in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"All of our top military commanders recognize that there is no military solution in Iraq," Obama said at the VFW convention in Kansas City. "No military surge can succeed without political reconciliation and a surge of diplomacy in Iraq and the region. Iraq's leaders are not reconciling. They are not achieving political benchmarks. The only thing they seem to have agreed on is to take a vacation."

He concluded, "That is why I have pushed for a careful and responsible redeployment of troops engaged in combat operations out of Iraq, joined with direct and sustained diplomacy in the region."

A day earlier, Clinton, too, told the vets that new tactics have brought some success against insurgents, particularly in Iraq's Anbar province.

"It's working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics," she said. "We can't ever let that happen again."

As for the broader situation in Iraq, she said, "I do not think the Iraqis are ready to do what they have to do for themselves yet. ... I think it is unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation."

Also on the bill at the VFW event on Tuesday, undeclared Republican candidate Fred Thompson said the U.S. must rebuild its military to fight global terrorism because leaders "took a holiday" in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War.

"Some people in this country think if we can pull out of Iraq, our problems will be over," Thompson said. "You and I know better than that."

"Now we're stretched too thin, and our equipment is wearing out," said Thompson, the former Tennessee senator who is expected to announce a decision soon on whether to seek the Republican presidential nomination.

Like Sen. John McCain, who is seeking the GOP nomination and spoke to the vets on Monday, Thompson said the United States should not pull out of Iraq.

President Bush addresses the group on Wednesday.

VFW members at the convention applauded most vigorously when the candidates talked about improving government programs for veterans. Poor treatment of wounded troops and veterans has gotten substantial attention in recent months.

Obama said, "My secretary of veterans affairs will be just as important as my secretary of defense. No more shortfalls; it's time to fully fund the VA medical center. No more delays; it's time to pass on-time VA budgets each and every year. No more means testing; it's time to allow all veterans back into the VA."

Thompson, too, touched on that subject.

"Our obligation to our veterans doesn't end when they leave the battlefield," he said. "It's not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing to do."

The hall in which the VFW is meeting seats almost 6,000. It has been half full for the candidates' speeches.

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