Barack Obama

Afghanistan, Iraq

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. supports the phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, removing combat forces by the summer of 2010, according to Obama’s official campaign website. He has also said during the debates the resources spent in Iraq could be used to handle real threats to the U.S and has advocated for more troops being deployed to Afghanistan.

“I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks,” Obama said in an op-ed piece published in The New York Times.

Obama’s opponents, however, believe the phased withdrawal of troops on a timeline will allow terrorists and insurgents to “circle their calendars” and wait for the troops to leave before they overrun the government.

Pakistan

Although Obama has supported working with the Pakistan government to root out al-Qaida members along the country’s border with Afghanistan, the Illinois senator has stated during the debates that the United States will “go after these militants” if it has actionable intelligence that Pakistan either cannot act on or refuses to act on.

Iran

Obama has made clear he would support high-level diplomatic talks with Iranian leaders without preconditions — including specific references to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the primary debates — but also will press for sanctions against the Islamic state if the country does not halt its uranium enrichment program. Obama has also stated military action is not “off the table.”

John McCain

Afghanistan and Iraq

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. says it is the duty of the U.S. to stay as long as it takes to make sure Iraq is strong enough to support itself before withdrawing military troops.

He supported the troop surge that increased the number of troops stationed in Iraq. He claims the surge has been successful in stabilizing the situation overseas, vindicating his assertion that America can succeed in democratizing Iraq.

However, like his opponent, he has also supported increasing the number troops present in Afghanistan.

“If we seize the opportunity before us, we stand to gain a strong, stable, democratic ally against terrorism and a strong ally against an aggressive and radical Iran,” McCain said in a prepared speech earlier this year in Kansas City, Miss.

Opponents of McCain’s strategy have been critical of its lack of any “end in sight,” criticizing remarks by McCain that said he would occupy Iraq for a 100 years if necessary.

Pakistan

In terms of dealing with Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, McCain has, during the debates, advocated for working in tandem with the new government to root out members of al-Qaida along the Afghan-Pakistan border. He criticizes Obama’s plan of crossing into Pakistani territory on “actionable intelligence,” calling such a move “naive.”

Iran

McCain has called for tougher economic sanctions on Iran and the need for international cooperation to prevent the country from gaining nuclear weapons. The Arizona senator has dismissed meeting directly with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, suggesting on his campaign website that such a move would be negotiating “from a position of weakness.”