McCain clarifies stance on Afghan withdrawal

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday said a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan "would be the wost possible course of action."

The comments came a day after the staunch defense hawk said, for the first time, that the situation in Afghanistan was so bad the U.S. should consider the option of an early exit. 

McCain's Thursday comments were notable because the 2008 GOP candidate for president has long argued a U.S. presence in Afghanistan is necessary to defeat al Quadea and the Taliban. 

On Thursday he sought to clarify those remarks, which focusd on the White House's need to restructure its policy. 

"I have said that no option should be taken off the table in such a discussion, including a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops ... however, I continue to believe that would be the worst possible course of action," McCain said in Thursday's statement.

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"So many of the problems we are now encountering in Afghanistan can be traced back to the administration’s repeated attempts to cut corners in this conflict," McCain said. 

Due to the White House's "consistent disregard" of American field commanders who have requested to the American withdrawal take place "at a slower pace," the entire war effort in Afghanistan is now in peril, he said. 

An acceleration of that withdrawal, he added, would only hasten the problem of insider attacks on American and NATO forces in country, he said. 

He argued a "strategic pause" in the planned withdrawal is the best course of action for the Pentagon and White House in Afghanistan, "to determine what, if any, changes we should make in order to achieve our goals" in the country, McCain said. 

The Obama administration's plan is to remove all combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but some members in both parties have called for an earlier withdrawal amid new problems with the mission.

Most joint operations between NATO and Afghan troops below the batallion level were suspended this week because of a rise in "insider" attacks by Afghan troops against U.S. and NATO forces. 

On Monday, House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) called for an immediate withdrawal of American forces from the country.

“I think we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan as quickly as we can,” Young said in an interview Monday with the Tampa Bay Times. “I just think we’re killing kids that don’t need to die.”

On Wednesday, McCain told reporters of Afghanistan: “I think all options ought to be considered, including whether we have to just withdraw early, rather than have a continued bloodletting that won’t succeed.” 
The crux of the strategy of a removing U.S. troops over the next two years is a successful handover of all security operations to the Afghan National Security Forces. 

But that strategy has stalled according to McCain and other Republican lawmakers. 

The dramatic rise in insider attacks is symptomatic of the administration's failed war strategy, according to McCain. To date, 51 coalition soldiers have been killed at the hands of ANSF troops. A majority of those casualties have been suffered by American forces. 

“Any rational viewer that has any knowledge of the military knows that the whole program has to be re-evaluated, because the process that they said would lead to that withdrawal has been an abject and total failure,” McCain said Wednesday.