Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainKelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race Voting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities Sinema, Manchin curb Biden's agenda MORE (R-Ariz.) on Thursday unveiled his long-promised strategy for Afghanistan, saying "America is adrift" in the war-torn nation as the Trump administration spins its wheels.
"President Obama’s ‘don’t lose’ strategy has put us on a path to achieving the opposite result," McCain said in a statement. "Now, nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened. The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander-in-chief.”
McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, has long threatened to force a strategy on the administration if it doesn’t come up with one to win the 16-year-old war.
Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump's 'Enemies List' — end of year edition The US can't go back to business as usual with Pakistan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike MORE promised to deliver one to Congress by mid-July, but nothing has materialized as the administration is racked by deep divisions over the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
Trump has reportedly been so frustrated with the U.S. direction in Afghanistan that he suggested firing the four-star general overseeing the war.
McCain said he developed his strategy, which he is filing as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, after consulting with some of the country’s “most experienced and respected former military and intelligence officials.”
“Adopting a new strategy for achieving America’s national security interests in Afghanistan is a decision of the highest importance, one that should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny and debate within our government,” he said. “But we must face facts: we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.”
Right now, there are about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
McCain does not specify how many troops would be necessary to "turn the tide," but he calls for an “enduring United States counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan.”
McCain says the president should ensure the Defense secretary, secretary of State and military commanders have all the resources they need, including military forces, civilian personnel, financial resources and authorities.
He adds that the United States should pursue an “integrated civil-military” approach that includes deploying more U.S. troops; providing more targeting authority against the Taliban, Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, ISIS and “other terrorist groups that threaten the United States, its allies and its core interests"; and pursuing a joint agreement with the government of Afghanistan for a long-term, open-ended U.S. presence.
His strategy also calls for improving the abilities of Afghan forces in the short term by placing U.S. advisers and trainers at the battalion level of each Afghan corps and “significantly” increasing the availability of U.S. airpower. In the long term, the U.S. would provide “sustained support” as the Afghans improve their own capabilities, including intelligence, logistics, special forces, air lift and close air support.
U.S. military and economic support would also be “strictly” conditioned on the Afghan government meeting benchmarks on anti-corruption and other reform efforts.
McCain's strategy also includes Pakistan, which would be subject to graduated diplomatic and military costs “as long as it continues to provide support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups.”
Finally, it calls for intensifying U.S. diplomatic efforts with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and other nations to promote political reconciliation in Afghanistan.