WASHINGTON (CNN) – The chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee responded Sunday to recent criticism from former White House hopeful Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the committee.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, has lately suggested that the proper course for the United States to pursue in Afghanistan is to beef up the country’s own army and police forces before planning on sending in any additional American troops.
At a hearing of the Armed Services Committee last week, McCain took direct aim at Levin’s approach.
“Despite our successes in Iraq and the hard won understanding we have gained about what it takes to defeat an insurgency,” McCain said on Capitol Hill last Tuesday, “it seems we now, regrettably, must have the same debate again today with respect to Afghanistan. In all due respect, Sen. Levin, I’ve seen that movie before.”
“It’s a very different movie,” Levin said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, in response to McCain’s recent remarks.
Levin told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that the U.S. is seeing some success in Iraq because the military succeeded in winning over insurgents who had been attacking American soldiers and destabilizing Iraqi society. “That’s what we need to also do in Afghanistan. That is a very big difference.”
As in Iraq, however, Levin noted that the U.S. military in Afghanistan is changing its strategy in dealing with the local population. “Instead of just trying to attack the insurgents, we were protecting the population. That new strategy is now in place in Afghanistan. So, this is a very different movie from Iraq. They’re two very different places.”
Levin also said Sunday that the Iraqi army does not enjoy the level of public confidence that the Afghan army has with the local population.
In an interview that also aired Sunday on State of the Union, President Obama said he was working with his military and national security advisers to develop his administration’s strategy for continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
"I think that what we have to do is get the right strategy, and then I think we've got to have some clear benchmarks, [a] matrix of progress," Obama told King about the war-torn country.
"I don't want to put the resource question before the strategy question," Obama also said. "Because there is a natural inclination to say, if I get more, then I can do more. But right now, the question is, the first question is, are we doing the right thing? Are we pursuing the right strategy?"
Also on State of the Union Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the president generally had the support of Senate Republicans for what the Obama administration has been doing in Afghanistan. But McConnell expressed concern about an apparent delay in making available to Congress troop level recommendations from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
“We’d like to see Gen. McChrystal and Gen. [David] Petraeus come up to Congress like they did during the Iraq [war’s] surge and give us the information about what they’re recommending. We think the time for decision is now,” McConnell said, adding that if Obama ultimately decided on a change in strategy in Afghanistan or on adding additional troops, the White House would have the support of Senate Republicans.