February 25th, 2009
02:31 PM ET
5 years ago

McCain: U.S. losing Afghan war

The Obama administration is currently conducting a review of overall U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration is currently conducting a review of overall U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Former GOP presidential nominee John McCain warned Wednesday that the U.S. is losing the war in Afghanistan.

The Arizona senator said that while he approved of President Barack Obama's recent decision to send 17,000 additional troops to the country, he believed an additional allied military and civilian surge would be necessary to prevent it from once again becoming an al-Qaeda safe haven.

The Obama administration is currently conducting a review of overall U.S. policy in the troubled Islamic republic.

"When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning," McCain said in remarks delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

McCain claimed that while the situation in Afghanistan is "nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq," the number of insurgent attacks had spiked in 2008 and violence had increased over 500 percent in the past four years.

Growing portions of the country "suffer under the influence of the Taliban," he added.

McCain's comments echoed those of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who acknowledged last Friday that that the U.S. is facing a "very tough test" in Afghanistan.

"But I'm sure we will rise to the occasion the way we have many times before," Gates told a news conference in Krakow, Poland, where NATO defense ministers were meeting.

McCain said that the U.S. was winning in Afghanistan through early 2005, when some troops were withdrawn and "our integrated civil-military command structure was disassembled and replaced by a Balkanized and dysfunctional arrangement."

A Vietnam War veteran, former prisoner of war and longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said that while he knows Americans "are weary of war ... we must win (in Afghanistan). The alternative is to risk that country's return to its previous function as a terrorist sanctuary, from which al Qaeda could train and plan attacks against America."

Among other things, McCain stated that the U.S. needs to establish a larger military headquarters capable of executing "the necessary planning and coordination for a nationwide counterinsurgency campaign."

He also said current plans to expand the Afghan army from 68,000 to 134,000 troops were insufficient. He recommended expanding the Afghan army to between 160,000 and 200,000 troops.

At the same time, he said, the U.S. needs to boost the country's non-military assistance to help strengthen "its (civilian) institutions, the rule of law, and the economy in order to provide a sustainable alternative to the drug trade."

Southern Afghanistan currently provides about two-thirds of the world's opium and heroin. Over the years, those two drugs have served as a major source of revenue for the insurgency, including the Taliban.

McCain warned that, even if his recommendations are adopted, the violence in Afghanistan is "likely to get worse before it gets better. The scale of resources required to prevail will be enormous."

The timetable, he concluded, "will be measured in years, not months."


Filed under: Afghanistan • John McCain
soundoff (147 Responses)
  1. gl, Pittsburgh

    McCain back to his old war tricks. He rather worry a war then help out American people.

    February 25, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. lvlhded

    It's time to leave.

    February 25, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. Otto

    This is sad...so sad, I feel sorry for Senator McCain. Being a war hero and years of experience in government; it's sad to hear him say the Afghan war is loss.

    Come on Senator, you can do better than that. You had over seven years to tell Pres. Bush to take a hike; you backed him going into Iraq even though you knew the war front was Afghanistan.

    More than one trillion dollars later and another two trillion or more dollars need for GI recovery, family support and military equipment replacement.

    How can we aford to loose Afghan? I'd rather hear you say we need a different approach; deplomacy for instance, better judgment is another tool.

    You did not want to walk away from NAM nor have you forgotten; you reminded us everyday while you campaign.

    I know you have better sense than that or is it because you are not President?

    February 25, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  4. L. Jay

    I seem to recall this man saying that, if defeated, he would do everything he could to move America forward in the Obama administration and support anything that led to that goal. Did anyone tell him that he lost the election? Did they remind him this morning? It seems to not be getting through. People stare at Palin and say "let it go, already". McCain, who I used to have nothing but respect for, is making it impossible to muster more than a sad shake of the head and a twinge of regret for the man who used to put America first and didn't lead the charge of the "No!" Brigade. Sorry, it wasn't you – MOVE ON!!!!

    February 25, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. Larry

    Hey John

    We have been losing in Afghanistan since Bush stole the Presidency

    No getting on Obamas wagon this late in the game dude

    Go home and soak your teeth

    February 25, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  6. Dutch/Hampton Roads, VA

    We know we're losing. No #^&! Sherlock, you idiot. Are you just now figuring that out John? I know you want to stay in Iraq for another 100 years. I can tell just from the facial expression you made last night when President Obama said he will end that war. What was the slick remark you whispered in the ear of the lady standing next to you?

    February 25, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  7. PGM

    It's not a war that can be won,those days are gone. It's a bargaining war.Diplomacy & economic trade will be the champion. Integrate talk with Iran & Syria,Jordan,Saudi Arabia & India & Israel then you'll have resolve. More troops equals an escalation of violence so it will spiral over & over. Fight this fight with diplomacy & policing techniques,then you'll see the changes.

    February 25, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Annie

    Thanks for the news flash, John.

    February 25, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Outraged

    Gee, John – Maybe you should suit up & go over there....

    Also, WE need to strengthen Afghanistan's economy?!!! With our own economy in the shape it's in? Yeah, right.

    February 25, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Tracy

    We are losing? Really? Hmmm. Didn't know that.

    February 25, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. emma

    Like this is news to anyone who has been keenly following the war in Afghanistan. What is your strategy for winning? I am just sick and tired of people ranting for the sake of it without offering any constructive alternatives. It's time America came to the realization she cannot solve the whole world's problems.

    February 25, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Freed_From_W

    But, McCain, dear sir, I thought you knew where Bin Laden is and how to get him? You wouldn't lie to us, would you? We're friends after all, remember?

    No seriously, be quiet.

    @ beevee : We're financing them in a roundabout way. Al queda was originally one of the many death squads the CIA puts together in areas they can't officially operate in, but in which things "need" to be done. (See "Contras") We gave them all the training and weapons in the 80's alongside giving Saddam $3 million for weapons to kill Iranians.

    February 25, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Little too late????

    beevee...sign up for the US Army or USMC, grab a rifle and jump on the tip of the spear to see for yourself...IF you did, then you would know how totally different an enemy those'tribal thugs' are.

    THIS is a different war, different country. You couldnt use WW2 strategy in Vietnam, couldnt use Vietnam tactics in Desert Storm....and you sure as heck cannot expect what worked in Iraq to be successful in Afganhistan. THAT conflict is a 'win hearts and minds' war that might be a challenge for conventional troops to achieve.

    With the Afgan border protection lacking and extreme terrain, it would be easy to get anything...and anyone, including bin Laden, BRAGIL...into the country. How did the Somolis keep getting arms?? Same drill, but those 'tribal thugs' in THIS confict are not as whacked out.

    February 25, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. sandee in Portland

    I remember McCain saying he knew where Bin Laden was while he was campaigning. So, tell us oh mighty one. That way we won't have to spend any more money in Afganistan. What a war monger he is; same mentality as Bush (our way or no way).

    February 25, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Diana NJ

    Who told him were had a war going on there... He only spoke about staying in IRAQ..

    February 25, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. CA Indie for Obama

    so where are other repubs saying mccain is unpatriotic? when the dems criticized going into Iraq, that was all the repubs said, "you're not patriotic".
    Had the bush admin gotten bin laden BEFORE going into Iraq, I think mccain could have been president today. however, he didn't, they didn't and he isn't.

    February 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. Maggie from Virginia

    beevee,

    Unfortunately, we helped train and equip Afganistan to fight the Soviets. They are now using all the resources we gave them against us.

    February 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. John

    John McCain: Master of the Obvious.

    February 25, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. emma

    "When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning," McCain said in remarks delivered at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
    Of course when you aren't winning you are losing. Everyone knows this. Is it just me or is McCain's brain so wired to war and everything to do with it. The Russians failed in Afghanistan, I sure hope America learns a lesson from them.

    February 25, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  20. Ken

    Wasn't this the same clown who said the US economy was strong, as people were being thrown out of their jobs and their houses? Wasn't this the same dolt who picked trailer-trash Barbie as his running mate? SO......who would actually listen to this guy's analysis and insight for guidance????

    February 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  21. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool

    @beevee
    No invading army has ever won in Afghanistan. Russia was defeated there; in fact this was the single biggest factor in leading the collapse of the USSR. Even Gangis khan was defeated in this country. Mongols, Hannibal, Romans all defected here.

    February 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  22. ijoe

    so when bush was president we were winning the war !! now obama is president were're losing it ?? old mc same.

    February 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  23. No Hillary = No Obama

    John McCain is the only one who knows what he's talking about.

    February 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    See, this is the problem...if you don't closely monitor the elderly, they sometimes foget and take a second day's worth of their medication, then start talking all kooky.

    February 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  25. Big Ed

    Comments from someone who has proven no longer be relevant.

    February 25, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
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