Obama, McCain argue over Iraq, agree on Afghanistan

2008-07-15 20:20:45 GMT       2008-07-16 04:20:45 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (R-AZ) smiles as he addresses a League of United Latin American Citizens conference in Washington, July 8, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Xinhua) -- U.S. presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain debated fiercely over Iraq policy in separate speeches Tuesday, but agreed on a need to shift focus to Afghanistan.

In a major foreign policy speech delivered in Washington, Democratic Senator Obama called for a "new direction" in international relations and a change in focus from Iraq to fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.

It was only days before he leaves on a trip to Europe and the Middle East.

Republican Senator McCain, speaking in Albuquerque, N.M., said things were getting worse in Afghanistan and called for a "comprehensive strategy for victory" there.

"(President) George W. Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq -- they have a strategy for staying in Iraq," Obama said.

"They said we couldn't leave when violence was up, they say we can't leave when violence is down."

He accused McCain of concentrating on tactics in Iraq instead of a broader strategy to fight terrorism.

"At some point, a judgment must be made," he said. "Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don't have unlimited resources to try to make it one."

Obama said McCain "has argued that the gains of the surge mean that I should change my commitment to end the war. But this argument misconstrues what is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and stubbornly ignores the facts of the broader strategic picture that we face."

For his part, McCain cast Obama as wrong on Iraq and inexperienced on foreign policy.

"Obama will tell you we can't win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq," he said. "In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan."

The 71-year-old former Navy pilot also touted his experience, saying that "in wartime, judgment and experience matter. In a time of war, the commander-in-chief doesn't get a learning curve."

He proposed sending three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, but said it should not interfere with the pursuit of victory in Iraq.

McCain also had harsh words for how the Afghan war is being waged, strongly criticizing a divided NATO command structure and military restrictions by individual coalition partners.

"This is no way to run a war," McCain said.

Obama's speech also called for securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and "rogue states," achieving energy security and rebuilding international alliances.

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