Troops On Front Lines Track Election

Iraq War key component of campaign

MOSUL, Iraq -- U.S. soldiers on the front lines tuned in Tuesday to cable TV and the Internet to track the presidential election that will decide the future of their mission.

But for many, the day was spent like so many others on patrols, repairing equipment and other mundane tasks of war.  Troops in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan mailed in absentee ballots long ago -- if they voted.

It was hard to tell, however, whether soldiers were pleased with the outcome of the race. Public affairs officers in Iraq turned down requests by The Associated Press and other news organizations to ask soldiers whether they supported Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain.

One soldier, Sgt. James Fowler, 27, of Fresno, Calif., volunteered that he voted for Obama but "I am outnumbered 10-to-one, especially among officers" and senior noncommissioned officers who support McCain.

"Everyone is looking forward to McCain," said Fowler, from the 94th Engineer Battalion. "But I believe it's time for change and Obama has promised that. At least he has given us a timeline" for withdrawing from Iraq.

 Obama has called for bringing all combat soldiers home from Iraq within 16 months. McCain, a veteran and former Vietnam War prisoner, says the current U.S. strategy in Iraq is working and has promised to pursue the war until victory.

In the remote Afghan province of Kunar, meanwhile, Spc. Joshua Frank said it was "about time" the U.S. had a new president although he would not state his preference.

"We need, definitely need some change," Frank said. "So a fresh guy, fresh start would be good."

Both Obama and McCain support sending more troops to Afghanistan, where insurgent violence is on the rise even as it is declining in Iraq.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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