So What Did He Learn?

By Natalie Gewargis

Jul 22, 2008 6:13pm

In the shadow of the Temple of Hercules in Amman, Jordan, today, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, held a press conference after official trips to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I had a chance to ask him a couple questions. My second one bore little fruit, but the first elicited an interesting response, I think.

This was Obama’s first trip to Afghanistan and his second to Iraq (his first since the surge.) So I asked if he learned anything that changed his mind about any part of his thinking on foreign affairs.

The answer was basically: No.

Here’s his full answer:

"In terms of — look, there are all kinds of things that I learned," Obama said. "I think one of the things that was most eye-opening was the extent to which the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan makes it very difficult for our troops, as good as they are, to decisively defeat the Taliban and the terrorist operations in Afghanistan.

"If we don’t get a handle on that border region, we are going to continue to have problems, and Al Qaida is going to — and their networks are going to be able to continue to project beyond that region.

"And so, one of the things that was driven home is the importance of our diplomatic efforts in Pakistan, which, by the way, may include having a conversation with India and seeing if we can lessen some of the tensions between those two countries.

"A lot of what drives, it appears, motivations on the Pakistan side of the border, still has to do with their concerns and suspicions about India. And I think that’s an example of aggressive, creative diplomacy.

"We haven’t had a conversation between the Indians and the Pakistanis that has been sustained and meaningful about how they can arrive at a more sensible arrangement between the two countries. That could relieve some of the pressure and help us go after some of the — some of these forces along the border regions."

So Obama learned a few things — all of which reaffirmed his already established views. Nothing that changed his mind about anything.

- jpt

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