A few hours into his journey to the two key lands occupied by American troops, Barack Obama is feeling the love. Indeed, it seems as if leaders in both Iraq and Afghanistan are looking for some change they can believe in.
As I reported for The Media Consortium, on the eve of Obama's senatorial fact-finding mission to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. issued a plea for more U.S. troops in his country. Ambassador Said Jawad's request, delivered with a sense of urgency in a Washington, D.C., forum, vindicated Obama's long-held contention that the U.S. invasion of Iraq served only to divert attention and resources from the true front lines in the fight against terrorism, which the Democratic presidential candidate locates in Afghanistan. Last week, Obama published an op-ed in the New York Times advocating the redeployment of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The current capacity of U.S. forces is inadequate, Jawad asserted, noting the recent attack by the Taliban on a U.S. Army outpost that left nine Americans dead. As for our European allies, Jawad said, "The NATO forces are not fighting as hard as they should."
The concern of most Afghans, Jawad said, was not that the U.S. was on their land, but whether the U.S. would stay long enough for the nation to build institutions capable of serving and protecting the people. Implicit in his statement was the belief of many Afghans that the U.S. will abandon their nation once again at our earliest convenience, just as we did after the Afghans effectively fought -- and won -- the final battle of the Cold War.
Jawad and his wife, Shamim, are of the same generation of Obama and his wife, Michelle, and strike me as a couple possessing certain affinities with the Obamas. They're cross-cultural, keenly intelligent, lean and attractive. In an Obama administration, the public diplomacy as regards Afghanistan promises something photogenic.
Although John McCain has, of late, jumped onto the Afghaniband-wagon, my HuffPo colleague Jon Stolz unearthed some 2003 video of McCain speaking rather dismissively of Afghanistan, essentially saying it would fine for the U.S. to "muddle through" there.
Today's big news was the apparent endorsement of Iraq President Nouri al-Maliki for Obama's 16-month draw-down plan. Somebody must have just reminded the Iraqi leader that Obama isn't yet president; just hours after they were reported, Maliki's spokesperson began back-pedaling his comments.
All this before Obama has met with either Maliki or Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.