- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 31, 2008

Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama reportedly told the top military commander in Iraq that some U.S. forces should be pulled out of Iraq and deployed to Afghanistan, when the two met in July in Baghdad.

At the July meeting, Gen. David H. Petraeus did not disclose his opinion on moving troops from one war to the other, according to an article in the Sept. 8 edition of the New Yorker magazine. The Taliban-led insurgency has dramatically increased attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in recent months.

But Gen. Petraeus will soon be in a position to oversee such a move if President Bush decides to shift some forces. He takes over U.S. Central Command in September where he will have responsibility for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Middle East. In the meantime, he is expected to recommend a modest cut in troop levels in Iraq to the president in the next few weeks, a reflection of the improved security situation.

There are currently 15 combat brigades in Iraq and a total of 146,000 troops, including tens of thousands that perform support, rather than direct combat, functions.

Mr. Obama has made bolstering the war effort in Afghanistan a central campaign point and has criticized the Bush administration for diverting troops and attention to Iraq.

“I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said in his nomination acceptance speech in Denver on Thursday.

Gen. Petraeus told Mr. Obama that his goal is to get U.S. forces out of the daily Iraq fight as soon as possible and said military commanders needed politicians to give them the flexibility to manage the pace of the drawdown, the magazine reported.

The magazine describes the meeting based on interviews with Gen. Petraeus and Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat. Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, was also there.

Mr. Obama has called for the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops along a 16-month timetable. He favors leaving a force of undetermined size behind to help counter terrorists, to protect U.S. personnel and facilities and to train Iraqis.

The Illinois senator opposed the initial war as well as the addition of nearly 30,000 U.S. troops last year, a strategy now credited with bringing down the level of violence in Iraq.

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