Obama Endorses McCain’s Iraq Position
NEWSWEEK: In Iraq, it's not new that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has wanted to take control of his own country. But there's always been this gap between his assessment of his abilities and American commanders' saying he's not up to it. As president, faced with that difference between what he says he can do and what the commanders say he can do, how would you choose between them?
OBAMA: Iraq is a sovereign country. Not just according to me, but according to George Bush and John McCain. So ultimately our presence there is at their invitation, and their policy decisions have to be taken into account. I also think that Maliki recognizes that they’re going to need our help for some time to come, as our commanders insist, but that the help is of the sort that is consistent with the kind of phased withdrawal that I have promoted. We’re going to have to provide them with logistical support, intelligence support. We’re going to have to have a very capable counterterrorism strike force. We’re going to have to continue to train their Army and police to make them more effective.
NEWSWEEK: You've been talking about those limited missions for a long time. Having gone there and talked to both diplomatic and military folks, do you have a clearer idea of how big a force you'd need to leave behind to fulfill all those functions?
OBAMA: I do think that's entirely conditions-based. It’s hard to anticipate where we may be six months from now, or a year from now, or a year and a half from now.