THIS JUST IN: Obama Touches Down In Afghanistan

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Barack_ObamaCROPPED.1_1.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: KABUL, Afghanistan — Senator Barack Obama arrived in Afghanistan Saturday morning, opening his first overseas trip as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to meet with American commanders there and later in Iraq to receive an on-the-ground assessment of military operations in the United States’ two major war zones. Mr. Obama touched down in Kabul about noon, according to a statement released by his aides. His trip has been cloaked in secrecy, which advisers said was due to security concerns set forth by the Secret Service.

BOSTON GLOBE: Obama advocates ending the U.S. combat role in Iraq by withdrawing troops at the rate of one to two combat brigades a month. But he supports increasing the military commitment to Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been resurgent and Osama bin laden is believed to be hiding. MORE

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PETRAEUS: BAGHDAD (AP) — After intense U.S. assaults, al-Qaida may be considering shifting focus to its original home base in Afghanistan, where American casualties are running higher than in Iraq, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Saturday. He said there are signs that foreign fighters recruited by al-Qaida to do battle in Iraq are being diverted to the largely ungoverned areas in Pakistan from which the fighters can cross into Afghanistan. U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan for more than a year to halt the cross-border infiltration. It remains a major worry not only for the war in Afghanistan but also for Pakistan’s stability. MORE

mccain_iraq_chances_1.jpgREUTERS: Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine he supported prospective U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama‘s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months. In an interview with Der Spiegel released on Saturday, Maliki said he wanted U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. “U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.” It is the first time he has backed the withdrawal timetable put forward by Obama, who is visiting Afghanistan and us set to go to Iraq as part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East. MORE

UPDATE: In this photo released Saturday, July 19, 2008, by the the U.S. Army, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., gets help from service members wishing U.S. ARCENT a happy 90th birthday at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Friday, July 18, during a Congressional Delegation visit.

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