Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration Overnight Defense: General warns State Department cuts would hurt military | Bergdahl lawyers appeal Trump motion | Senators demand action after nude photo scandal Senate lawmakers eye hearing next week for Air Force secretary: report MORE (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday slammed Vice President Biden for making statements about the Taliban this week that McCain said were an "insult" to military service members.
McCain called it an "outrage" and "unbelievable" that Biden told Newsweek/The Daily Beast this week that "the Taliban per se is not our enemy."
Mitt Romney separately called it a "strange" and "extraordinary" remark.
"If [the Taliban] aren't the enemy, who has been shooting at us all this time?" McCain said on Fox News, quoting from a tweet he said he got from a member of the military. "For the vice president of the United States to make a statement like that is an insult to the men and women who are serving today. ... But also, what about the families of those who have been killed by the IEDs that Taliban have manufactured, the same Taliban that sheltered bin Laden and was responsible for 9/11? What about all that? It's just disgraceful."
Republican presidential candidate Romney also criticized Biden for the remark later on Fox News.
"I think it's one of the most strange comments ever to be uttered by the lips of a vice president. And this vice president in particular has said some strange things," he said. "We are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. They are killing American soldiers. To suggest they are not our enemy is extraordinary. And that kind of communication confuses our friends in Afghanistan, and our friends around the world. Where in the world is this vice president coming from?"
Romney went on to suggest, "The Obama administration continues to narrow the group of people they consider our enemies to almost a nonexistent group. ... We have to stand up for the kind of approach we've had under the prior president to recognize that we're going to fight jihadism around the world."
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday that critics are taking Biden's words out of context.
"We went into Afghanistan because al Qaeda had launched an attack against the United States from Afghanistan," he said. “And what the vice president was reflecting is that, and this is related to the reconciliation process that I was just discussing, is that the Taliban per se, while we are fighting them, it is not the elimination, the elimination of the Taliban is not the issue here. The objective that the president laid out when he laid out his Afghanistan strategy made clear that the No. 1 principle here is to disrupt, dismantle and ultimately to defeat al Qaeda, as well as help stabilize Afghanistan. And that’s what we’re doing."
— This post was updated at 9:22 a.m.