Obama prepares for meeting with Afghan president

July 19, 2008 10:17:59 PM PDT
Presidential candidate Barack Obama was on a mission overseas Saturday. The Illinois senator kicked off an international tour of war zones. Among his first stops was a meeting with U.S. soldiers serving on the front lines.Senator Obama is part of an official congressional delegation traveling to the region. He arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan early Saturday morning, and then, flew to eastern Afghanistan, where he remained Saturday night.

This Obama's first visit to Afghanistan, but that is not stopping him from weighing in on events in that country.

Extraordinary security was arranged for the politically vital visit by Obama. The freshman senator and two of his congressional colleagues spent part of Saturday meeting with military commanders and local leaders at the U.S. base in Jalalabad, which is not far from the Tora Bora region where Osama bin Laden fled in the early days of U.S. invasion of Afghanistan six-and-a-half years ago.

Violence is increasing in Afghanistan. In the eastern half of the country, the U.S. military reports a 40 percent increase in the number of attacks, compared with the same period last year.

Senator Obama and his Republican rival Sen. John McCain both advocate increasing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Obama believes the war in Iraq has been a distraction to the United States' original goal of going after those responsible for the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The atmosphere was far more relaxed for Senator Obama at an earlier stop in Kuwait, the main gateway to Iraq and Afghanistan for U.S. troops and their supplies. Obama played basketball with a handful of soldiers and kept his policy discussions vague, to avoid the appearance that his trip is little more than an overseas campaign rally.

"In addition to the great work that our military is doing, we've got to have much better intelligence. We've got to have much more effective diplomacy," Obama said.

Senator Obama told soldiers Saturday that his grandfather served in Patton's army in World War II. Obama knows he needs to shore-up his foreign policy credentials and military credibility, and that is certainly a goal of this trip.


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