Obama Wants U.S. Troop Surge In Afghanistan


From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

WASHINGTON — Sounding presidential, Senator Barack Obama said Wednesday he would order a surge of U.S. troops – perhaps 15,000 or more – to Afghanistan as soon as he reached the White House.

“We’re confronting an urgent crisis in Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama, the Democratic contender and now clear front-runner to replace George W. Bush, said Wednesday.

“It’s time to heed the call … for more troops. That’s why I’d send at least two or three additional brigades to Afghanistan,” he said in his most hawkish promise to date.

A U.S. army brigade includes about 5,000 soldiers along with tanks, armoured personnel carriers and helicopter gunships.

Seeking to deflect attacks that he is dangerously inexperienced in foreign policy, Mr. Obama huddled with a high-profile panel of experts before a news conference aimed at showcasing his command of global affairs.

“The terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large and plotting,” he said, echoing Mr. Bush’s oft-repeated refrain.

But he was quick to blame Mr. Bush for miring the United States in a pointless war and wrecking its reputation abroad.

“We must be vigilant in preventing future attacks, he said. “We’re fighting two wars abroad [and] we’re facing a range of 21st-century threats from terrorism to nuclear proliferation to our dependence on foreign oil, which have grown more daunting because of the failed policies of the last eight years.”

Mr. Obama, speaking in Virginia, a once-solidly Republican state that now could swing Democratic, warned that his rival, John McCain, a decorated former naval officer and combat pilot who endured years of torture as a prisoner of war, would lead America into more danger if he becomes president.

“Senator McCain has supported the key decisions and core approaches of President Bush. As president, he would continue the policies that have put our economy into crisis and, I believe, endangered our national security.”

As the deepening economic crisis has all but eclipsed other issues in the final few weeks of the campaign, Mr. McCain has repeatedly tried to shift the debate and portray Mr. Obama as unready to cope with foreign challenges.

Earlier this week Joe Biden, the Democrat vice-presidential candidate, predicted that unspecified foreign adversaries would attempt to challenge an inexperienced young president, just as the Cuban Missile Crisis tested president John F. Kennedy in 1962, but claimed Mr. Obama would rise to the occasion.

That assurance prompted a new jibe from Mr. McCain: “I know how close we came to a nuclear war and I will not be a president that needs to be tested. I have been tested, Senator Obama has not.”

Mr. Obama, at 47, is nearly a quarter-century younger than Mr. McCain and was a toddler in Hawaii during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

While Republicans paint Mr. Obama as dangerously naive, the first-term senator from Illinois has shot back by saying Mr. McCain is just wrong-headed

“We can’t afford another president who ignores the fundamentals of our economy while running up record deficits to fight a war without end in Iraq,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday.

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