Senator Barack Obama arrived in Iraq early Monday morning under heavy security. Iraq is still not safe or back to ‘normal’ since the average person cannot go for a stroll to the market without encountering some type of violence. Fifty people died in two separate twin suicide bombings just last week. Schools still aren’t open and most citizens still don’t have electricity or running water in their homes. Even with all the current violence – Iraq is at its lowest violence levels since 2004.
One of Senator Obama first stops was to meet with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, in the ‘Green Zone’ where the Iraqi government is headquartered. Details of the meeting have not been made available – as yet.
Obama will also meet with President Jalal Talabani as well as the top US military commanders in Iraq including General David Petraeus.
One of Senator Obama goal is to withdraw combat troops from Iraq in a responsible manner but he says he is prepared to be flexible on details, and could leave some troops behind for special tasks, such as training Iraqi forces and dealing with any dwindling al-Qaeda forces.
Obama also wants Iraq to assume main responsibility for their security, according to Susan Rice, one of his senior foreign policy advisors. “We cannot sustain the current high levels of deployment in Iraq indefinitely… without breaking our military,” she said.
“Nor can we maintain them at high levels in permanent bases with the agreement of the Iraqi government because they’ve been quite clear that they don’t want that.”
Last week President Maliki and US President George W Bush said they had agreed to set a “time horizon” for the withdrawal as part of a security pact still being negotiated.
Before leaving the US, Obama said that some of the troops withdrawn from Iraq (2 brigades, about 7,000) will be sent to Afghanistan to reinforce efforts there against a resurgent Taliban and to help manage increasing violence.