Obama said he recognizes that the United States has a number of missions in Iraq that would have to be carried out "under any circumstances," including counterterrorism efforts in the region, support for the Iraqi forces, and continued economic development.
Before sitting down with Petraeus, Obama met with Maliki, who was quoted this weekend in the German magazine Der Spiegel, saying Obama's call for withdrawing U.S. troops over a 16-month period "would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes" -- a statement that stunned the White House.
Maliki's office later said he was misquoted, but an independent translation of his comments confirmed the gist of his remarks.
Obama said that during their discussion, Maliki spoke about the need for a time frame for withdrawal, "but his view is he wants some flexibility in terms of how that's carried out."
Obama also said that Maliki feels his government is ready to exercise more sovereignty.
"I made very clear to him that we have one president at a time," Obama said. "And it is the job of the Bush administration to work with [the] Iraqi government. I am a United States senator, I can present my views as a candidate and I can present my views as a senator who believes that we can't bind the next president to an agreement that involves us committing troops or budget."
Recent polls have indicated that some Americans doubt whether Obama is up to the challenges of being commander in chief. He said he considers the responsibility of that position to be "profound."
"You've got young people who are coming here, 21, 22, 24 [years old] ... if you go to Walter Reed, you see young men and women of the same age who lost a limb or lost their sight," he said. "What we are asking of them is profound, and that means that, as commander in chief, it is absolutely my obligation to get it right, to get the decisions as accurate as possible, based on the best facts available and to clear away the politics and to clear away the ideology and the preassumptions, but to also recognize that these service members take such extraordinary pride in their work.
"Regardless of these legitimate differences, strategic differences between myself and John McCain or George Bush or anybody else, we are absolutely united in being proud of them and understanding that, given their sacrifices, we better fulfill our duties at least as well as they're fulfilling theirs."