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McCain said that the U.S. was winning in Afghanistan through early 2005, when some troops were withdrawn and "our integrated civil-military command structure was disassembled and replaced by a Balkanized and dysfunctional arrangement."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

    What a MORON.

    February 25, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    You know, if we cared what McCain had to say we would have elected him.

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

    Nice attempt to stay relevant SENATOR McCain. Thank you VERY MUCH for your service to our great country, NOW DISMISSED !

    February 25, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Marshall

    beevee, this is Viet Nam all over again. It is a war we will never win. And yes I have served in both Afganistan and Iraq. It is a war that needs to be won by the Afgans and Iraqis. End of story.

    February 25, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. Oregon

    Now wasn't it McShame who tried to convince each and every citizen of this country – and to the world no less – during the debates that

    "He knew how to get Bin Laden. He knew how to get 'em".

    No wonder he wasn't elected. He's such a vegetable.

    February 25, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  6. Lynn

    Still trying to remain relevant.....

    February 25, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  7. shucks

    Maybe your hallowed leader who you voted with 99% of the time should have been in Afghanistan in the first place. Not in Iraq fight his daddies war for their oil. It is a fact the the Bushes had oil stakes in Iraq. We knew Bin Laden was their shortly after 9/11. What a moron.

    February 25, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Lions and Tigers and Jindal

    This is not a nice thing to say. What if you had kids over there. Loosing a war means a lot more dead then this. We just have to get organized and plan out what we call winning and do what we must. Remember, the only reason we went to Afgan was to get Bin Laden not to change their government.

    February 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. Nancy T.

    John is only figuring this out now? He didn't see it when his pal, George Bush, was President. FOOL!

    February 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  10. Mike Dallas

    Shut up and sit down!

    You had 7 years to give your advice, now nobody cares!

    February 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Simmy


    I think he should be held in contempt for not divulging his "secret" information. Lol. Last night he had a look that was hard to interpret. Was it jealousy, anger, both?

    The thing about Iraq and Afghan..is that Bush gave Iraq too much attention. He should have concentrated on having spies go into Pakistan; find Bin Laden; kill him, end of drama. Politics has cost so many lives, so much money, and what do we have to show for it? God bless our brave soldiers. They are fighting a great fight. It's not their fault. Bush and Cheney are to blame.

    February 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  12. Oh Please..

    Can McCrypt just go away already.

    February 25, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. Sam

    I wonder if he would have said this if he had won the election...

    February 25, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. Beverly, NYC

    Such a war hawk. His solution to everything is more American lifes and years occupying a foreign land. Unless we get Bin Laden, dismantel Al Qeada and the Taliban we have won nothing.

    February 25, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. Mike in NYC

    @beevee -

    Imagine if this country were invaded. A lot of citizens would be seriously fired up, would take up arms, and be difficult as all hell to root out.

    February 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. Tyler

    Someone shut this guy up.....

    February 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  17. RSB

    Is he just realizing this? Maybe he can find Bin Laden while helping with this problem. He said he knew where he was and he would catch him. So, what's up with that?

    February 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  18. GOP = Geriatric Obstructionist Pityparty

    Oh, so now he has found the definition of "winning and losing"!

    What happened to "surge" surge" and "conditions on the ground"?

    Oh yeah, and why don't you share the location of bin Laden, remember, you know where he is.

    Isn't that treason, for giving aid to the enemy???

    February 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  19. Cheri

    We are losing the war in Afghanistan because Bush turned his focus to Iraq instead.Why is John McCain just now coming to this conclusion anyway?

    February 25, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Mike

    Yes during the campaign, McCain said he knew how to win the wars in Iraq and Afganistan. So now, why doesn't he tell us how? Isn't he a patriot? Why is he holding out on us?

    Also, he said he would go to the gates of hell to pursue Bin Laden. So why dont we appoint him as the envoy to that region? He said he knows how to do all these things? Give him the chance!

    It's time to "put up" or fore ever remain silent!

    February 25, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Sarah

    How astute he has become since Bush has let office – I didn't here him utter a word about losing in Afghanistan / not a single word for 8 years. Amazing! (I can't take any of these Republicans seriously.)

    February 25, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. no corporate politics

    Obama's Viet Nam

    February 25, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  23. Obamacrat

    McCain only knows three words: a noun, a verb, and "surge"

    February 25, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. ch

    Go away – you were soundly and rightfully rejected by the voters in November. Your nasty, negative campaign, and the utter audacity to select someone as unqualified as Palin sealed your fate.

    February 25, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  25. Adam

    If the Soviets couldn't have any success in Afghanistan over a ten year war THEY fought there, what makes us so sure we'd do any better in a country that has some of the most inhospitable terrain for modern (and even ancient) armies to contend with?

    We need to find out who is selling weapons to these guerrilla groups and stop that first.

    February 25, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
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