McCain slams White House stance on Afghanistan policy

The White House's consideration of an early pull out from Afghanistan will only embolden anti-American sentiment in the country and opens the door to terror groups in the region, a top Senate Republican said on Tuesday.

The Obama administration's deliberations on Afghanistan "discourages our friends and encourages our enemies," Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) told reporters. The administration "continues to talk withdrawal" even as Taliban forces look to leverage recent atrocities by American troops to their advantage.

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McCain's comments come a day after President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dismissed any notion that American troop withdrawals would be accelerated, due to the furor caused by Sunday's alleged shootings of Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier. The administration on Monday reaffirmed its commitment to begin troop redeployments in 2014 , saying it did not plan to speed up the process. 

However, a recent report in the New York Times states that the White House is considering the idea of pulling 20,000 American troops from the country by 2013. One plan, backed by National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, would be to announce that at least 10,000 more troops would come home by the end of December, and then 10,000 to 20,000 more by June 2013, according to the Times. 

That stance, according to McCain, sends "a message to the region that we are leaving" at a time when the situation in Afghanistan is at its most precarious.

Sunday's incident was only the latest in which U.S. and coalition troops have drawn the wrath of the Afghan people.

Last month, coalition forces set off a wave of violence in the country after American troops accidentally burned Qurans at an Air Force base. Two high-ranking U.S. officers were killed inside the Afghan Interior Ministry during the weeklong protest. Last April, a colonel with the Afghan air force shot several U.S. Air Force officers at Bagram Air Base in Kandahar.

McCain angrily dismissed arguments that U.S forces should adopt a smaller presence in Afghanistan, focused on counterterrorism operations, as a way to quell rising opposition to the American mission in the country.

"That didn't work in Iraq, and it won't work in Afghanistan," McCain said, adding the troop surge in Afghanistan could still turn the country around, "once the president stops talking about withdrawal."