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Iraqi surge exceeded expectations, Obama says

/ Source: The Associated Press

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said Thursday that the escalation of U.S. troops in Iraq, which he had opposed, has succeeded in reducing violence "beyond our wildest dreams."

But Iraq still has failed to achieve the political reconciliation and self-sufficiency that is required, he said, and he vowed to withdraw American troops and end the war.

Earlier Thursday, in taping a segment for Fox's "O'Reilly Factor," Obama said the surge of U.S. troops has "succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Republicans repeatedly have accused Obama of denying the military progress being made in Iraq and of wanting to pull out when victory is within reach.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania on Thursday, Obama was more effusive than usual in describing the reduction in violence that resulted largely from President Bush's decision to send thousands of more troops to Iraq in 2007. But he stuck to his assertion that "the surge" has not led to the political reconciliation among quarreling factions that was its larger goal.

Violence has gone down
Speaking to several thousand people in a sun-drenched park in Lancaster, Obama said his Republican opponent, John McCain, "wants to ignore the first five years of the war and just talk about the last one. And that's fair, because the truth is that the violence has gone down beyond our expectations."

However, Obama said, "the argument was and continues to be: When are we going to turn over responsibility to the Iraqis for their own country? When are they going to resolve their political differences?"

That will happen when he is president, Obama said, "because we are going to withdraw our troops" and, while giving Iraqis support, "we are going to bring this war to a close."