ABC News’ Jennifer Duck Reports: Campaigning in Albuquerque, New Mexico Tuesday, Sen. John McCain focused his remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan following a speech given on the same topic by his Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama.
Before McCain began speaking at a town hall event, the campaign seemed to focus on the economy. Large signs declaring “Jobs for America" and "Reform Prosperity Peace” encompassed the room flanked by American flags.
However McCain dedicated nearly 20 minutes addressing his new strategies for Afghanistan — including sending at least an additional three brigades into Afghanistan and doubling the size of the Afghan army.
“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,” McCain said.
If elected McCain said he would appoint an Afghanistan war czar “whose sole mission will be to ensure we bring the war in Afghanistan to a successful end.” He also proposed appointing a special envoy to Afghanistan to “address disputes between Afghanistan and its neighbors.”
McCain attacked the presumptive democratic presidential nominee for laying out plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he sets foot in the region.
“Senator Obama is departing soon on a trip abroad that will include a fact-finding mission to Iraq and Afghanistan. And I note that he is speaking today about his plans for Iraq and Afghanistan before he has even left, before he has talked to General Petraeus, before he has seen the progress in Iraq, and before he has set foot in Afghanistan for the first time,” McCain told the crowd of 200 in Albuquerque.
“In my experience, fact-finding missions usually work best the other way around: first you assess the facts on the ground, then you present a new strategy. So this is certainly a departure to what I have usually done.”
McCain told the crowd that Obama had opposed the surge and then quoted Obama’s Afghanistan speech today. “He goes on to say today, ‘I had no doubt we would see a reduction in violence with the surge.’ My friends, flip floppers all over the world are enraged. It gives new meaning. It gives new meaning,” McCain said. “So my friends this is a very significant difference of opinion that we had. And it’s pretty clear that Sen. Obama is contradicting the statements he made on the surge and war in Iraq that he made for a long time.”
“Obama will tell you we can’t win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan,” McCain continued to the crowds’ applause. "I know how to win wars. And if I’m elected President, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory. I know how to do that.”
McCain accused Obama of sounding “tough” on Pakistan and losing support in the region. “Senator Obama has spoken in public about taking unilateral military action in Pakistan. In trying to sound tough, he has made it harder for the people whose support we most need to provide it. I won’t bluster, and I will not make idle threats. But understand this: when I am commander -in-chief, there will be nowhere the terrorists can run, and nowhere they can hide.”
He received a standing ovation for saying, "I want to assure you I have complete confidence I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”
He ended, touting his experience: “Let me conclude by reminding you in wartime, judgment and experience matter. In a time of war, the commander-in-chief doesn’t get a learning curve. If I have that privilege, I will bring to the job many years of military and political experience; experience that gave me the judgment necessary to make the right call in Iraq a year and half ago. “