Jonathan D. Salant
July 21, 2008

Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said today that U.S. combat troops should be shifted to Afghanistan from Iraq.

“This has to be our central focus, the central front of our battle against terrorism,” Obama said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “One of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here.”

Obama, who opposed the war with Iraq, said that conflict distracted the U.S. from the task of capturing al-Qaeda leaders and rebuilding Afghanistan after the militant Islamic Taliban regime was ousted.

“We made a strategic error, and it’s one that we’re going to pay for, and unfortunately the people of Afghanistan have paid for as well,” the Illinois senator said. “But we now have an opportunity to correct that problem.”

Obama, 46, was interviewed in Afghanistan, where he arrived yesterday. He is on a six-day tour that also will include stops in Iraq, Israel and Western Europe. He spent last night at Bagram Air Force Base outside Kabul.

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