CBNNews.com -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama admitted Tuesday that security in Iraq has improved, but emphasized that the war-torn country needs a political solution.
"There is security progress, but now we need a political solution," Obama said. He spoke from Amman, Jordan, in the first news conference of his highly publicized tip that began Saturday.
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Obama repeated his calls for troop withdrawal from Iraq within 16 months should he become President. Today he said he would consult military commanders to determine how many troops needed to stay beyond that point to help protect humanitarian operations and to train Iraqis to fight against al Qaeda, the BBC reported.
But the more important front for fighting terrorism, Obama says, is in Afghanistan, which has become the "central front in the war against terrorism."
"The situation in Afghanistan is perilous and urgent," he said. "We must act now to reverse a deteriorating situation."
Obama also condemned an attack carried out by a Palestinian man in Jerusalem on Tuesday. He said he would always support Israel in "confronting terrorism."
After Obama meets with Jordan's King Abdullah, the Illinois senator was expected to travel to Israel. On Wednesday he will stop in Sderot -- a small town of frequent rocket fire from Palestinian militants in Gaza.
This is Obama's first overseas tour since securing the Democratic nomination last month. He is scheduled to travel to Europe through the week.
His rival for the presidency, Republican Sen. John McCain, has criticized Obama for not spending more time in the region.
He shrugged off concerns that Obama's trip was stealing attention, saying that it "doesn't in the slightest" undercut his own message.
"I know you know there's been a lot of back and forth" on the issue of Iraq, he said in New Hampshire Tuesday, recalling the darker days of his campaign one year ago in the same place.
Last year, "everybody declared my candidacy dead ... I said we've go to do the 'surge' ... and we will win the war in Iraq. And we are winning that war," he said.
"If he had his way, we would have been out last March," McCain said of Obama. "We would have never succeeded and we would have had defeat. ... He was wrong then, he is wrong now."
McCain reiterated the prospect of having town-hall meetings with Obama, but his team continues to reject the suggestion.
Source: The Associated Press, BBC, Reuters