It's been a while since Barack Obama has been to Iraq -- as of this post, in fact, it's been roughly 890 days and 15 hours. The Republican National Committee is counting, and is using its clock against the presumptive Democratic nominee. On Monday, though, Obama said he wants to visit both Iraq and Afghanistan before Election Day rolls around in November.
Obama made the statement when talking to reporters in Michigan on Monday, as he was discussing a telephone conversation he had Monday morning with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "I told him that I look forward to seeing him in Baghdad," Obama said.
Obama also said that he gave Zebari "an assurance that should we be elected, an Obama administration will make sure that we continue with the progress that’s been made in Iraq -- that we won't act precipitously, but that we will move to end U.S. combat forces in Iraq... My concern is that the Bush administration, in a weakened state politically, ends up trying to rush an agreement that in some ways might be binding to the next administration, whether it's my administration or Senator McCain’s administration. The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that's currently made."
There's been no specific timetable announced for the visits.
Earlier this year, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain had asked Obama to go to Iraq with him. Obama rejected the idea, which seems unfeasible because of security concerns anyway. There's also the question of just how valuable these visits are in judging the situation on the ground, as Republicans say they are, since any visit would have to be tightly controlled. CNN's Michael Ware, a veteran Iraq reporter respected for his objectivity on the war, has quipped, "I mean Senator McCain has been here, what, more than half a dozen times. And we've seen him get assessments of Iraq terribly wrong."