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

McCain: U.S. losing Afghan war

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/11/art.getty.mccain.face.jpg caption="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McCain said that the U.S. was winning in Afghanistan through early 2005, when some troops were withdrawn and "our integrated civil-military command structure was disassembled and replaced by a Balkanized and dysfunctional arrangement."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. Sharon - NC


    February 25, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  2. I've Got Tone

    Not a lot of credibility for John McCain on this topic.

    Remember, it was Obama, not McCain that fortold of the need for more troops in Afghanistan. McCain kept citing Petraus but the General in Afghanistan was always more in line with the President.

    February 25, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  3. Jaz

    Wow...I would wonder how long John McCain wants to keep looking like the 'sore loser'. The one time he is shown standing up to applaud, he couldn't help but use that time to speak from the side of his mouth (which he did quite a bit during his campaign) to probably make some rude comment to the woman next to him.

    Maybe Maverick and his Alaskan tax evader should just simmer down now...the adults are fixing the country now...SSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    February 25, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. frank

    Candidate McCain didn't even acknowledge the slightest problem in Aghanistan.

    February 25, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. wwf

    Yeah, if Bush was still President, McCain would be saying the "we are winning the war". Just like he said that our economy was sound. Typical Washington insider. A republican, which is not saying much, seeing as how it is just a step below a Deomocrat, which is not saying much either. Until both parties start working for the American people instead of their "sacred cow" partys, nothing will ever get done.

    February 25, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  6. MICK in MESA

    Spoken like a loser. Party principles first, right Big John?

    February 25, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. Bruce

    And I will bet that you know how to win WARS! Come on John tell us.
    Just like you know how to get Osama bin Laden.

    February 25, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. Carl from MI

    McCain's an idiot!! We were losing the war the day we started it. The only way to beat terrorists is with covert action and the lack of public recognition.

    Dubya gave terrorists around the world EXACTLY what they wanted: a reason to keep on fighting and a reason to increase their recruits.

    Thank you, Dubya!!! It's still hard to believe that you're only the 36th worst President in our nation's history instead of the very last....

    February 25, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. HSNP

    The leader of the Party of NO. No wonder you lost, John. Give the new prez a chance to line it out.

    February 25, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Oregon

    well Mcshame certainly knows something about LOSING a war.

    The GOP is a circus run by clowns:
    First they try a corrupt Alaskan woman – didn't work.
    Then they try a token black 'chairman' – didn't work.
    Now they push their "Slumdog" Jindal. Won't work.

    The GOP simply does not have a clue.

    Here a hint though: Obama is OUR President.

    February 25, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. obama-mama

    Not a fan of McCain but I believe Afghanistan will be tough and more troops are needed....I really hope they catch Bin Ladin and cut down Al Qaeida for good.....They're just a bunch of animals

    February 25, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  12. LiLa, WI

    We began losing that war when the Bush administration pulled our troops from Afghanistan and sent them to Iraq. Did you speak out then, Sen. McCain?

    February 25, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. simp

    Who in the hell is listening to this idiot. At first he said we need to focus on Iraq now he is saying we need to focus on Afgan, please don't listen to this war hungry loser, he thinks he is the only one who knows whats going on in the middle east, Pres Obama has a staff to handle that so shut up mccain.

    February 25, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. Adele

    Oh really. Did he just figure this one out.

    February 25, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |

    Here comes McWar...Composition = 1 part human, 1 part tank & 1 part Haliburton.

    February 25, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  16. beevee

    I don't understand how a bunch of tribal thugs can be so difficult to defeat even if it is their own turf and they know the terrain insideout. First of allwhere are they getting the arms from and who is financing them. If we know who is helping them may be then we can plan better on how to destroy them

    February 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  17. Kim

    WELL GEE, YA THINK???? We've spent billions and lost thousands of Americans as well as thousands of civilians because we decided to start a war in Iraq, all to no avail. It was the wrong country and the wrong war, because Dubya had to be a macho cowboy and initiate a war.

    February 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  18. carol

    john mcgain should just keep his mouth shut. he is not the president so he needs to get over it. he is a racist from the word go

    February 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  19. Shirley in California

    Here we go again-riding Obama's coattails. H E L L O McCain. Isn't this what President Obama said ALL during the campaign? Sorry, I forgot you are STILL mentally ill and incapable of comprehending. Now that you have finally gotten your mentality out of Iraq-you want to elaborate on Afghanistan? Give us a break. Please take your trophy wife, your vp candidate and your senseless ideas back to Arizona for good.

    February 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  20. Lisa B - Florida

    Oh, shut up you moron. You lost. I think President Obama is fully aware of the dire situation in Afghanistan. That is one reason he IS the President and you are not. If the people of Arizona vote this guy back into office, they need to have their heads' examined.

    February 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. Angie in Pa

    John SURGE Mccain when is he Gonna retire for Gods sake

    February 25, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. Angie in Pa

    John SURGE Mccain when is he Gonna retire for Gods sake

    February 25, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  23. BRAGIL

    Hey Mac ! Where is Bin Laden ? Apparently you have inside information. Let's hear it.

    February 25, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  24. Alex

    Someone's still bummed that he didn't get credit for destroying the Vietcong by crashing his plane in truly victorious fashion!

    February 25, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Bridgette-PA

    I don't want to hear anything he has to say right now! My wounds are still fresh!


    February 25, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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