ABC News' George Stephanopoulos falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama shifted positions on increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan and is "now" aligned with the position of Sen. John McCain. In fact, Obama has been calling for increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan since at least 2006.
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While discussing Sen. Barack Obama's trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, ABC News' chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos falsely suggested during the July 21 edition of ABC's World News that Obama shifted positions on increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan and was "now" aligned with the position of Sen. John McCain. Stephanopoulos stated that "despite this major difference with Senator McCain on the surge itself, there's been a blurring of lines on foreign policy generally. He [Obama] agrees now with McCain on more troops for Afghanistan." Stephanopoulos' comments follow speeches by Obama and McCain last week in which both advocated increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan. In fact, as several reports about the speeches have noted, Obama has been calling for increasing U.S. troops in Afghanistan since at least 2006.
Both Obama and McCain addressed the need for an increased military presence in Afghanistan in separate speeches on July 15. In his speech, Obama stated, "Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq," and proposed "send[ing] at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions -- with fewer restrictions -- from NATO allies." During his speech, McCain asserted: "Our commanders on the ground in Afghanistan say that they need at least three additional brigades. Thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them." As Media Matters for America has noted, after his speech, McCain reportedly said that his proposal to deploy three additional brigades to Afghanistan would require "greater participation on the part of our NATO allies" adding that, in the words of The Washington Post, "he might call on NATO to supply part of the additional troops he hopes to send to the region."
Indeed, Obama has been calling for an increase of U.S. troops in Afghanistan since at least 2006 and has specifically proposed the addition of at least two combat brigades since 2007. For instance:
- In a November 20, 2006, speech, Obama asserted: "The President should announce to the Iraqi people that our policy will include a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces." He added: "I am not suggesting that this timetable be overly rigid. We cannot compromise the safety of our troops, and we should be willing to adjust to realities on the ground. ... Perhaps most importantly, some of these troops could be redeployed to Afghanistan, where our lack of focus and commitment of resources has led to an increasing deterioration of the security situation there. The President's decision to go to war in Iraq has had disastrous consequences for Afghanistan -- we have seen a fierce Taliban offensive, a spike in terrorist attacks, and a narcotrafficking problem spiral out of control. Instead of consolidating the gains made by the Karzai government, we are backsliding towards chaos. By redeploying from Iraq to Afghanistan, we will answer NATO's call for more troops and provide a much-needed boost to this critical fight against terrorism."
- In a January 19, 2007, floor statement on the proposed troop "surge" in Iraq, Obama argued for a "a gradual and substantial reduction in U.S. forces." He stated: "Drawing down our troops in Iraq will put pressure on Iraqis to arrive at the political settlement that is needed and allow us to redeploy additional troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region, as well as bring some back home."
- On August 1, 2007, Obama specifically called for the addition of two U.S. brigades in Afghanistan during a speech in Washington, D.C. Obama said: "When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements," the first of which was "getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Obama stated: "The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan." He went on to add: "Ending the war will help isolate al Qaeda and give Iraqis the incentive and opportunity to take them out. It will also allow us to direct badly needed resources to Afghanistan. Our troops have fought valiantly there, but Iraq has deprived them of the support they need-and deserve. As a result, parts of Afghanistan are falling into the hands of the Taliban, and a mix of terrorism, drugs, and corruption threatens to overwhelm the country. As President, I would deploy at least two additional brigades to Afghanistan to re-enforce our counter-terrorism operations and support NATO's efforts against the Taliban. As we step up our commitment, our European friends must do the same, and without the burdensome restrictions that have hampered NATO's efforts. We must also put more of an Afghan face on security by improving the training and equipping of the Afghan Army and Police, and including Afghan soldiers in U.S. and NATO operations."
- Obama reiterated his call for adding brigades in Afghanistan during a September 12, 2007, speech, in which he said: "When we end this war in Iraq, we can finally finish the fight in Afghanistan. That is why I propose stepping up our commitment there, with at least two additional combat brigades and a comprehensive program of aid and support to help Afghans help themselves."
- On December 18, 2007, Obama stated during a speech in Des Moines, Iowa: "Six years after we took our eye off the ball in Afghanistan - the origin of the 9-11 attacks -- we still don't have our priorities straight. That's why it's time to stop funding a failed policy, to remove our combat brigades from Iraq, and to increase our military, political, and economic commitment to Afghanistan.
- During a March 12 speech, Obama said: "When I spoke out against the war, I said that I was not opposed to all wars. In fact, one of the central reasons why I opposed going to war in Iraq is that we had yet to finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. That remains true today. That is why I have consistently called for an increased commitment to Afghanistan, and why I called last August for at least two additional combat brigades to support our mission there. And that is why I will end the war in Iraq when I am President, and focus on finishing the job in Afghanistan."
From the July 21 edition of ABC News' World News with Charles Gibson:
CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): So, how's it going for Obama?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Halfway through -- through the trip, it's going about as well as it can possibly go for Senator Obama. He's hit all his marks. He's met with the prime ministers of Iraq and Afghanistan, the commander of our troops on the ground in Iraq, without making a major mistake, which is important. And despite this major difference with Senator McCain on the surge itself, there's been a blurring of lines on foreign policy generally. He agrees now with McCain on more troops for Afghanistan. He agrees with Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki in Iraq, apparently, on a timeline for withdrawal. And even on the issue of Iran, since the Bush administration sent a representative to meet with the Iranians last week, there's a blurring of the lines there. That all helps Barack Obama.
GIBSON: This has got to be very frustrating for John McCain, as [ABC News correspondent] Ron Claiborne pointed out [earlier in the program], that he wants to make his points, he wants to get coverage, and yet everything seems to swarm around Barack Obama.