CBNNews.com - In a highly anticipated and broadly covered Middle East visit, Presidential candidate Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki on Monday.
The Illinois senator and the Iraqi Prime Minister appear to share the hope that U.S. combat forces could leave by 2010, according to Iraq's government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh.
Troops Out by 2010
"We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq," al-Dabbagh told reporters. The spokesman noted that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence kicks up again.
That time frame falls within the 16-month withdrawal plan proposed by Obama, who arrived in Iraq as part of a congressional fact-finding team.
Traveling with Obama are Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.
The Obama campaign says the Illinois senator came for an on-the-ground assessment of a war he said he was against from the very beginning -- a point Obama was eager to make earlier after meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the weekend.
"I think one of the biggest mistakes we've made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq," Obama told Face The Nation.
But the situation in Iraq is much different than it was in January 2006 during Obama's first visit.
Critics Weigh In
Analysts agree that last year's surge has made the country more secure and that gives Republican rival John McCain fresh ammunition to fire.
"He railed against, voted against, and said the surge wouldn't work. He said it wouldn't work and couldn't work and failed to acknowledge it. It did work and we have succeeded. Thank God," McCain said on Good Morning America.
Obama favors withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and redeploying military resources to Afghanistan, which has become a hot bed of violence in recent months.
If elected, he has pledged to declare an end to the war in Iraq and bring most American troops back home within 16 months.
But this weekend, the head of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a premature withdrawal "could be very dangerous."
"I'd worry about any kind of rapid movement out and creating instability where we have stability," Admiral Michael Mullen told Fox News Sunday.
One other aspect of Obama's overseas trip that's getting a lot of play, media coverage.
Critics point out that McCain didn't get as much attention when he traveled overseas earlier in the campaign season.
News executives say that McCain is partly to blame, by criticizing Obama's lack of foreign policy experience.
Source: CBN News, The Associated Press