McCain praises Trump’s Afghan speech: ‘Big step in right direction’

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has spent months bashing President Trump for delaying a new Afghanistan strategy, on Monday night praised him for “taking a big step in the right direction” after his address on the path forward.

“I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan,” the Senate Armed Services chairman said in a statement. “The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban have made dangerous inroads. Nevertheless, I believe the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat.”

In a prime-time address in front of a crowd of troops at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., Trump laid out in broad strokes how he plans to proceed in Afghanistan.

Despite originally wanting to withdraw from the country, Trump said he now believes withdrawing would lead to “predictable and unacceptable” results.


He said the U.S. presence in the country would depend on conditions on the ground, rather than any specific timeline; the U.S. would integrate its military, diplomatic and economic power in the country; and the approach to Pakistan would change.

Still, Trump declined to discuss specifics, including how many more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plan for further military activities,” he said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy for now on. … I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

Trump’s speech came after months of deliberations on the issue. McCain became so frustrated with the delay that he introduced his own strategy as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill.

In his statement Monday night, McCain said Trump got right that the strategy should be based on conditions on the ground and take a regional approach.

Still, McCain, who has been critical of Trump on a number of fronts, added that Trump must now “conduct himself as a wartime commander-in-chief.”

“He must speak regularly to the American people, and to those waging this war on their behalf, about why we are fighting, why the additional sacrifices are worth it, and how we will succeed,” McCain said.

McCain also said Congress must do its job and pledged to hold an Armed Services Committee hearing on the strategy in September.

“Congress has a role to play in sending America’s young men and women into harm’s way, and we intend to exercise that responsibility,” he said. “The road ahead will not be easy, but America and the world cannot afford an Afghanistan that is under control of the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.”

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