"As on many things, Senator Obama is not listening to our commanders, and Senator McCain is," says Kori Schake, a senior policy adviser to McCain. "General David Petraeus believes Iraq is the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda has even said it is."
But with spiking US casualties in Afghanistan and fresh reports of growing Al Qaeda activity in Pakistan and North Africa, that may be a hard sell to voters already deeply skeptical of the Iraq war.
Ms. Schake's comments came about two hours after Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said additional troops were needed in Afghanistan but that too many were tied down in Iraq to send more.
The Obama campaign last week seized on the news reports of a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda as evidence of McCain's policy shortcomings.
"Instead of questioning Barack Obama's consistent call for a new direction in Iraq and Afghanistan, John McCain should explain why he is offering nothing more than four more years of a failed foreign policy that has asked nothing of the Iraqi government, overstretched our military, failed to finish the job in Afghanistan, and failed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice for over six years," Tommy Vietor, an Obama campaign spokesman, said in a statement.
For McCain, the stakes for drawing contrasts with the Bush administration – in affairs both domestic and foreign – are high. A USA Today/Gallup Poll released last week found that 2 in 3 Americans are concerned that McCain would pursue policies "too similar" to President Bush.