Barack Obama told reporters in Flint, MI today that he will be visiting Iraq and Afghanistan before the election. This is critical not only because John McCain’s campaign has been making a daily point to hammer Obama on not visiting Iraq, but also because as the Democratic Party’s nominee, he has to go to Iraq.
The Obama campaign said that details of his trip would be announced shortly, but looking at the schedule, my guess is that it will probably happen in July, because late August in the convention and the months that follow are the general election campaign. It is important to remember that troops are voters too, and Obama would be remiss from a strategic point of view if he didn’t go talk to them.
Depending on how his trip goes, it may help answer a lot of questions about Barack Obama and his foreign policy experience. In order gain that experience, he needs to see more of Iraq and Afghanistan, not as a senator, but as the man who would be president. This announcement gains even more significance when one considers the news that the Taliban has captured several southern villages outside of the largest city in Afghanistan, Kandahar.
It is obvious that the Bush administration’s decision to ignore Afghanistan in favor of Iraq was a giant mistake. I think that Obama needs to propose a concrete shifting of our resources from Iraq and back into Afghanistan. Maybe some people have forgotten that the Taliban provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda, and that the battle against the Taliban is true frontline against terrorism. The best thing that Obama could say after his trip would be that he has seen both nations firsthand, and he is determined to get the Taliban out of Afghanistan.