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McCain Campaign Conference Call On Barack Obama’s Afghanistan And Iraq Positions

July 16, 2008

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
McCain Campaign Conference Call On Barack Obama’s Afghanistan And Iraq Positions

“My concern is not just with Barack but the committee itself and not having any hearings on Afghanistan over the last year and a half on our subcommittee — we have missed a lot opportunities to take more responsibility and to bring to public light the problems. … So I’m calling on Senator Obama to work with me to have hearings, to help bring to light the issues in Afghanistan, to put pressure on the Administration and others to act decisively there before the situation deteriorates more.” — Senator Jim DeMint

ARLINGTON, VA — Today, U.S. Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign held a press conference call with U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), Kori Schake, senior foreign policy adviser and Randy Scheunemann, senior foreign policy adviser, to discuss Barack Obama’s Afghanistan and Iraq positions:

Senator Jim DeMint: “There’s been a lot of talk about leadership in Congress and in the presidential election, and I think one good indication of real leadership is what we’ve actually done with the responsibility and authority that we have. And here in Congress, we have the opportunity to use hearings, to provide oversight, develop policies and also bring a lot of issues to the public light that might not come out of the Administration.

“Barack Obama and I are leaders of the European Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee. He’s the chairman and he has the ability to have as many hearings with his choice of witnesses that he would like.

“I wrote the letter to Barack because of my concerns about Afghanistan and the fact that Afghanistan is a NATO operation, which comes under the purview of the European Subcommittee that he chairs. My trip to Afghanistan and a number of briefings here suggest some serious concerns. I believe as we’ve made progress in Iraq we’ve seen deterioration in Afghanistan. I know that McCain when he saw the problems in Iraq was able to come up with a strategy which was used by the President which has worked and I believe what McCain has put forth here for Afghanistan suggests the same type of understanding.

“My concern is not just with Barack but the committee itself and not having any hearings on Afghanistan over the last year and a half on our subcommittee — we have missed a lot opportunities to take more responsibility and to bring to public light the problems. I think most Americans would be surprised and concerned to learn of the deterioration there militarily, the increase in poppy crop and the things that have happened and the potential problems if NATO does not keep its commitment.

“So I’m calling on Senator Obama to work with me to have hearings, to help bring to light the issues in Afghanistan, to put pressure on the Administration and others to act decisively there before the situation deteriorates more.”

Kori Schake: “It seems to me odd that [Barack Obama] emphasized in his speech today that main strategic challenge the U.S. faces is Afghanistan, and yet he chose to cut off funds to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan and he’s never once held a hearing as the committee he overseas on it.

“That said, I want to focus on John McCain’s message as well, because he made a very important statement today outlining a comprehensive strategy for victory in Afghanistan and I think it deserves a lot of attention because it demonstrates the serious-mindedness that he brings to being commander-in-chief and his ability to assess the situation and take a leadership role in fixing it, in the way that he has done with Iraq and that he is doing with Afghanistan. The strategy that Senator McCain is calling for in Afghanistan actually applies the principles of the counter-insurgency that has proven successful in Iraq, to carry those lessons into Afghanistan.”

Randy Scheunemann: “As Senator McCain pointed out today, it’s very strange that Senator Obama laid out his strategy and policies for Iraq and Afghanistan before he visits the countries. He hasn’t been to Iraq in over 900 days. He’s never been to Afghanistan. He has never met privately with General Petraeus. He’s going to go over and presumably and get briefings, but in Senator Obama’s world view, he doesn’t need to benefit from the insight gained in those briefings. He believes that he already knows what the policy changes should be. …

“Senator Obama ignores the consequences of the policy he’s advocated in Iraq, and he’s missing the point when he is expressing a demonstrable preference for defeat in Iraq. He said today that his commitment is to end the war in Iraq. It is strange that he talks about ending the war, but he doesn’t talk about winning the war. Senator McCain is advocating winning in Iraq and in Afghanistan. If Senator Obama takes office, he has said he would reject the advice of his military commanders. Instead, he has pledged to give an order unprecedented in American history, an order no U.S. Commander-in-Chief has ever issued — withdraw from Iraq and lose this war. Senator Obama refuses to recognize that such as order would have profound strategic consequences. As Senator McCain said earlier today, Senator Obama believes that it is necessary to lose in Iraq to win in Afghanistan. Senator Obama stubbornly clings to a withdrawal timetable he drew up to appeal t o the left-wing of the Democratic party. He reiterated his commitment to that today. …

“Let me finally say, that Major General Hammond is the commander of the 4th Infantry Division, responsible for Baghdad — is likely to be one of the generals that Senator Obama will hear from when he travels to Iraq. When Hammond was asked about how he would feel about getting an order to start drawing down two combat brigades a month, which is what Senator Obama’s plan is, he said, quote, ‘Instead of any time-based approach, any decision based on withdrawal has got to be conditions-based.’ When General Hammond was asked if it was dangerous to pull if the withdrawal is not based on conditions, General Hammond said, quote, ‘It’s very dangerous. I’ll speak for the coalition forces, men and women of character and moral courage. We have a mission, and it is not until the mission is done, that I can execute an order like that.’

“That’s a very, very important statement. I hope Senator Obama will actually listen to the briefings that he gets and will revise his position — a further refinement in his position on adhering to his rigid timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.”

Listen To The Full Conference Call

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