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McCain said that the U.S. was winning in Afghanistan through early 2005, when some troops were withdrawn and "our integrated civil-military command structure was disassembled and replaced by a Balkanized and dysfunctional arrangement."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

    hey Grandpa,

    The president has been saying this for the longest time!

    February 25, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  2. John's the man

    Why the hate?

    February 25, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. ROC

    McCain is finally getting into the right track.

    Senator McCain has always been excellent at tactics but he's lacking when it comes to understanding the big picture.

    No disrespect to the Senator.

    February 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Daniel

    Jindal is a goof ball! For some reason, I think the Republican party wanted to throw him out there to the lions last night, because he wanted to for one, but his ego is sooo large, that he can literally say he IS NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT on Meet the Press, and then turn around the next day – and effectively THROW HIS HAT IN THE RING!- ALREADY!!!!!

    what a moron loser.

    February 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Anna

    No one wins a war.

    February 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    And we will with Nobama at the helm!

    February 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  7. Jackie in Dallas

    Geez, Senator McCain...you FINALLY figured that out??? And how long did it take you? If your buddie, the previous Prez hadn't decided it would be more lucrative for his friends at Halliburton and the oil companies in Iraq, we might have stood a chance. Sit down, shut up, and try to do something constructive, for a welcome change. And when will people stop buying this whole war hero crap? He was a POW who aided and abetted the North Vietnamese by making propaganda tapes, and if his dad and granddad hadn't been admirals, he would have been court martialed. His nickname among the other POWs was Songbird. The ones who didn't aid the NVs were punished much worse than he was, and most didn't survive.

    beevee: Afghanistan is notorious for being one of the most difficult countries in the world to fight in. Besides the horribly mountainous terrain, the people who live there are extremelly tribal by nature, and are governed by tribal warchiefs who never agree on anything except to fight whoever it is who comes in from outside. Alexander the Great, the Persians, and more recently, Russia TWICE, have tried to "win" in that land and have failed. When Russia left both times, they were basically driven out and left a lot of their weapondry there. Also, the main crop grown in many areas is poppy...and poppy is where opium comes from...or as you might know it better, heroin. Afghanistan is one of the world's largest producers of opium, and that means a LOT of drug money coming in even though the world community has been trying to block the outflow of opium and the influx of weapons for years.

    As for fighting sophistication, think of it this way: do you think that this country would have had as easy a time stealing thousands of miles of territory from the Indians if they had had the equivalent or better weapons than the white settlers? Not a chance. If you think that just because they are tribal, they are dumb, you are majorly wrong.

    February 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. P. Y.

    I thought that McCain knew how to get Osama. That is what he said when he wanted to be the President. Why not share that info and then we can end this war.

    February 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  9. Roy

    Give me a break: John McCain is dying to send our troops SOMEWHERE for 100 years! He claims he is his own man, but this sounds like George Bush talking. We should follow Obama's plan instead of second-guessing it, send the 17,000 troops, wait 6 months, and reevaluate it. This is simple strategy and John McCain should know it. He should be more concerned about helping to solve the current issues, instead of nay-saying EVERYTHING and trying to keep his name in the media.

    February 25, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  10. Kim, Charlotte, NC

    During one of McCain and Palin's hate rallies.....Mcain stated who would follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell!.....So why don't you get him first, and quit stocking the Obama Administration!

    Enough said!

    February 25, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  11. Linda K.

    And which party has been in charge of the Afghan war for the last seven years? Why didn't McCain speak up earlier?

    February 25, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Kathy

    Gee, where is all the outrage that he is saying we a losing??? I heard so much outrage when Dems said that about Iraq, but I guess it is ok if you are a grumpy old white man, huh???

    February 25, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. scdemocrat

    OMG he doesn't support the troops. HOW DARE HE SAY ANYTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT THE TROOPS! This guy just needs to retire and go away.

    February 25, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  14. rice, bryan

    once again, here we go cleaning up one of "w"'s mistakes. and just watch some repub, is going to say that obama sent the troops in the first place.

    February 25, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  15. Kia.

    The Maverick is once again disgruntled....ptiy.

    February 25, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. MDM-Real VA

    Ok Country first...Mr. I served my country

    If you know where Osama is and how to get him....and...As you stated during the campaign you know how to win wars... then please put our country first and tell the President and the MIlitary Leaders.

    McCain and GOP you are all a bunch of jokers and nay sayers! All you do is criticize with no solutions or counter proposals. And restating what has failed over the past 8 years as the solution is not the right answer.

    Einstein once said////Problems can not be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.

    GOP... your thinking and conservative sound bites is what got us in the situation we are in today and certainly they will not get us out of the situation.

    February 25, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. vick

    shut up you old clueless creature you will destroy this country if it was up to you. i can care less we lose that war idiot we lost the war in our own country.

    February 25, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. MW in MD

    We have an economic and housing war at home and I am supposed to be worried about Afghanistan?

    February 25, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. Mary

    Hate to tell you beevee, but, some of their weapons probably came from us.

    For one thing, it was recently reported by the GAO that:
    "the Defense Department has been unable to account for tens of thousands of weapons supplied to Afghanistan's security forces"
    "The Defense Department could not provide serial numbers for about 46,000 of these weapons, and kept no reliable records for about 135,000 weapons obtained for Afghan forces by 21 countries or donors."

    February 25, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  20. JPM

    can this guy be helpful even once?

    February 25, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  21. ruty

    On the campaign trail McCain you bragged that you knew where Bin Laden was and that you knew how to get him. OK lets be bipartisan and tell Obama what you know. You are full of it John and you don't know squat . Talk and Lie is about all you know. Go back to "cry baby ville" and disappear.

    February 25, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |

    He knows this how ...


    February 25, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  23. Ray Fisher

    Here's another GOP wiz kid telling us the obvious like we haven't won that war before and keep doing it over and over again!!! Lordy we have troops retiring having spent a career fighting in Afghanistan!!! McCain will say anything to rally his brain dead followers against our President even to the detriment of our armed forces. Sen. McCain old warriors should stick to ripping off savings & loans and let the young troops like our President handle the wars. I bet our President can defeat the enemy just once without a repeat unlike others I dare not mention!!!

    February 25, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  24. Hal

    McCain is such a fool. he stated "all was going well" in Afghanistan and Iraq when George Bush was the President. McCain is a FOOL.

    February 25, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. Chris

    This is the same guy who previously said we could "muddle through" Afghanistan. Hey, McCain, maybe if we hadn't thrown several hundred billion dollars and all of our resources into making Iraq the top ally of Iran, this wouldn't be a problem.

    February 25, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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