ABC News' Jennifer Duck reports: Touting the surge strategy, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., declared today "we have succeeded in Iraq" and spoke of his confidence in winning the war in advance of Sen. Barack Obama's trip to the region.
"I'm happy to tell you we've succeeded in Iraq and we—unless we reverse the strategy that’s succeeding we will win this war. But it's fragile and it must be dictated—the strategy must be dictated by the situation on the ground. Not some artificially, politically schedule for withdraw as sen Obama wants to do," McCain told a crowd in Kansas City, MO.
Reporters questioned McCain on his rhetoric of success at a stop in Grand Haven, MI since in the past McCain has phrased the status in Iraq as "succeeding," as opposed to "succeeded."
McCain told reporters, "Military, economic, political, and all the benchmarks we said that the Iraqi government had to meet" have allowed for the word "succeeded" to be used.
However McCain admitted, "They haven’t met them all. Do they have a lot more to go-- distance to go? Yes and it’s very fragile. And can be reversed. But they’ve succeeded and if we will continue this, we will win this war."
He continued saying Obama's initial plan of withdraw would've "lost" the war. "I know how to win wars. And Sen Obama was wrong when he said that the surge would not succeed. And now he says he’s going to evaluate the situation. If we had done what Sen Obama wanted to do, there would be no situation to evaluate because we would’ve lost."
When asked when the war will be won, McCain responded, "I can say the war will be won when we will have the majority of Americans have returned and we have Gen Petraeus and his successor Gen Odierno tell us that the situation is secure. It’s still---we’ve succeed but it’s still fragile."
McCain’s communications director Jill Hazelbaker appeared on cable news channels calling Obama’s trip specifically to Iraq and Afghanistan "a campaign rally overseas" and "one giant photo opportunity."
"Well, Senator Obama is visiting Iraq and Afghanistan. I found it interesting that he released his plan for the way forward in Iraq and Afghanistan prior to visiting the region or talking with any of the commanders on the ground. Let's drop the pretense that this is a fact-finding trip and call it what it is: the first of its kind campaign rally overseas," Hazelbaker said on Fox News.
At first the presumptive Republican nominee seemed surprised with his staff's message telling reporters on his campaign bus he would talk to Hazelbaker about her message. "I can only give you my opinion, and I will talk to her. But the fact is, I’m glad that he’s going to Iraq and I think it’s – I’m glad that he’s going to Afghanistan. It’s long, long overdue, if you want to lead this nation and secure our national security."
However, after a flight from Missouri to Michigan, McCain was careful when telling reporters a few legs of Obama's trip to Europe and the Middle East appear to define it as a political trip. "If he has political rallies in other places, obviously it’s a political trip. But I was speaking specifically.