McCain pro­motes his own Afghanistan plan

Pro­posal calls for send­ing in more U.S. com­bat forces, doesn’t say how many

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Richard Lard­ner

WASH­ING­TON» In a re­buke of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Repub­li­can Sen. John McCain de­clared Thurs­day that “Amer­ica is adrift in Afghanistan” as he pro­moted a war strat­egy that would ex­pand the U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­fort and pro­vide greater sup­port to Afghan se­cu­rity forces.

McCain, chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said the U.S. needs to put strict con­di­tions on con­tin­ued as­sis­tance to Afghanistan, and re­quire the Kabul gov­ern­ment to demon­strate “mea­sur­able progress” in curb­ing cor­rup­tion, strength­en­ing the rule of law and im­prov­ing fi­nan­cial trans­parency.

“Nearly seven months into Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, we’ve had no strat­egy at all as con­di­tions on the ground have steadily wors­ened,” said McCain, a lead­ing voice in Congress on na­tional se­cu­rity mat­ters. “The thousands of Amer­i­cans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan de­serve bet­ter from their com­man­der in chief.”

McCain said bluntly, “We are los­ing in Afghanistan, and time is of the essence if we in­tend to turn the tide.”

The Arizona law­maker said he’ll seek a vote on his “strat­egy for suc­cess” in Afghanistan when the Se­nate re­turns in Septem­ber and takes up the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill.

His plan calls for send­ing in more U.S. com­bat forces, al­though he doesn’t say how many. But McCain wants them to be less con­strained in car­ry­ing out mis­sions against the Tal­iban, al-Qaeda, a grow­ing Is­lamic State af­fil­i­ate and other ex­trem­ists.

The plan, McCain said, is to “deny, dis­rupt, de­grade and de­stroy the abil­ity of ter­ror­ist groups to con­duct at­tacks against the United States, its al­lies or its core in­ter­ests.”

Frus­trated by his op­tions, Trump has with­held ap­proval of a long-de­layed strat­egy as he searches for a plan that will end the stale­mate and al­low U.S. forces to pull out of Amer­ica’s long­est war. It has been nearly 16 years since the United States in­vaded the then Tal­iban-ruled coun­try in re­sponse to the al-Qaeda at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The United States has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Trump has so far re­sisted the Pen­tagon’s rec­om­men­da­tions to send al­most 4,000 more to ex­pand train­ing of Afghan mil­i­tary forces and bol­ster U.S. coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions.

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