WASHINGTON – Sen. Barack Obama,D-Ill.,a Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency,said Wednesday his main priority in the fight against terrorism is “to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
As president,Obama said he would withdraw American forces from Iraq by the end of March and add at least 7,000 American military personnel to those already in Afghanistan.
Obama said he would work to strengthen the role of NATO's forces in Afghanistan. He would also encourage European countries to participate in the same Afghan areas as the American troops do. European countries have restricted their soldiers to certain areas.
He also supported strengthening training for Afghanistan's police and army and adding more equipment. Obama said he would increase non-military aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion.
Obama said he would “make the hundreds of millions dollars in U.S. military aid Pakistan conditional” to help the government's struggle against al-Qaeda in its territory.
But he also added,”If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act,we will.”
In a black jacket and red neck-tie,Obama presented his foreign policy in the darkened conference room of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The audience included supporters,members of Congress and reporters.
He mostly stood still,but pointed his finger when he spoke about what the U.S. government and society should change in foreign policy.
He began by saying he supported the release of Haleh Esfandiari,a Wilson Center researcher who has been accused of espionage and imprisoned in Iran. Esfandiara was visiting her mother when she was prevented from leaving the country eight months ago. She has been in prison for nearly three months.
Obama pointed out that he was speaking about his foreign policy plans the same week six years after President Bush received a briefing that Osama bin Laden was going to attack the U.S. He said the president took no actions to prevent the attacks that took place just over a month later.
To prevent a repeat of such attacks,Obama said he would reform U.S. security institutions. He would provide $5 billion over three years to other countries to support their work preventing terrorist attacks and increasing border protection. He said he would cooperate with the former Soviet Union countries and others to prevent nuclear weapons from being sold to terrorists.
Obama said he would create a new “mobile team” that would unite officials from the State Department,the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development to deploy to regions at risk.
He also demanded that the Department of Homeland Security,which was created shortly after Sept. 11,complete a quadrennial review the same way the Pentagon does.
Obama would also change national security inside the U.S. by revising the Patriot Act to decrease its effects on most citizens' private lives.
He said it is important to create an effective national protection plan that would include only the objects needing high security,such as chemical and energy plants.
Obama mentioned several times that the U.S. is not at war against the Muslim world,but only against terrorists. He said he would explain that to other Muslim countries during the first 100 days of his administration in meetings with the main Islamic leaders with whom the U.S. has disagreements.
He compared U.S. policy to someone sitting in a helicopter and looking down at the people who live side by side with terrorist groups.
“The America I know is the last best hope for a child looking up at a helicopter,” Obama said. “We can be what that child looking up a helicopter needs us to be: the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny and the light of hope to the world.”
Obama would found American Houses in Islamic countries to promote the English language,American culture and values. He said he would spend $50 billion a year by 2012 for foreign aid. He also would establish a $2 billion global education fund.