Mc­Cain will try to force de­bate on Afghanistan War, of­fer own plan.

Sen­a­tor crit­i­cizes Trump, Obama for han­dling war

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Wor­ried by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­lay in an­nounc­ing a mil­i­tary strat­egy for the war in Afghanistan, Sen. John Mc­Cain said Thurs­day he’ll try to force the de­bate on Capi­tol Hill, of­fer­ing his own plan that would force a troop in­crease.

The Ari­zona Repub­li­can, who is also chair­man of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, didn’t lay out a num­ber in the leg­is­la­tion but said more Amer­i­can coun­tert­er­ror­ism forces should be de­ployed, and given in­de­pen­dent author­ity to strike tar­gets of the Tal­iban, al Qaeda or other ter­ror­ist groups.

Mr. Mc­Cain also said the U.S should se­cure a long-term agree­ment with Afghanistan for an “en­dur­ing” mil­i­tary pres­ence there, and should be­gin to im­pose penal­ties on neigh­bor­ing Pak­istan as pun­ish­ment for that coun­try’s har­bor­ing of in­sur­gents and ter­ror­ists.

His plan comes at a time when the Trump White House is di­vided by de­bate over what to do in the war-torn na­tion, which con­tin­ues to back­slide on a host of se­cu­rity yard­sticks.

Pres­i­dent Trump said Thurs­day that his ad­min­is­tra­tion is “get­ting very close” to de­cid­ing whether to de­ploy more troops.

“It’s a very big de­ci­sion for me. I took over a mess and we’re go­ing to make it a lot less messy,” the pres­i­dent told re­porters af­ter a meet­ing with his se­cu­rity team in New Jersey, where he’s on a work­ing va­ca­tion.

It’s a de­ci­sion the ad­min­is­tra­tion had promised a month ago, but Mr. Trump ap­pears to be skep­ti­cal of his ad­vis­ers’ re­ported plans to com­mit thou­sands more troops

“The pres­i­dent is ask­ing, I think, some very, very pointed ques­tions, and they are good ques­tions. They were the right ques­tions that he should be ask­ing, and per­haps th­ese are ques­tions that no one’s been will­ing to raise in the past,” Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son told re­porters ear­lier this week.

He said they need more time to an­a­lyze the op­tions, and sug­gested some of those op­tions in­clude not surg­ing the U.S. com­mit­ment, which amounts to about 10,000 troops right now.

“It’s one thing to say we’re just go­ing to keep fight­ing be­cause there is no other op­tion. There are al­ways other op­tions,” the sec­re­tary said.

Mr. Mc­Cain said he’s been dis­ap­pointed by both Pres­i­dent Obama and Mr. Trump, and crit­i­cized them both Thurs­day.

“Amer­ica is adrift in Afghanistan,” he said. “Pres­i­dent Obama’s ‘don’t lose’ strat­egy has put us on a path to achiev­ing the op­po­site re­sult. 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.”

The Se­nate is poised to take up the an­nual de­fense pol­icy bill when it re­turns from sum­mer va­ca­tion, and Mr. Mc­Cain, as com­mit­tee chair­man, will man­age the de­bate, giv­ing him the chance to force his amend­ment to a vote.

A for­mer Navy pi­lot who was held in a prisoner of war camp in Viet­nam, Mr. Mc­Cain has long one of Capi­tol Hill’s fore­most de­fense hawks. He pushed the troop surge strat­egy un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush that helped sta­bi­lize Iraq in the lat­ter part of the last decade, be­fore the rise of the Is­lamic State un­der Mr. Obama sent the coun­try spi­ral­ing again.

Mr. Mc­Cain said the U.S. is “los­ing” right now in Afghanistan and must set strate­gic goals and re­vamp tac­tics to re­gain the up­per hand.

The most re­cent re­port from the spe­cial in­spec­tor gen­eral over­see­ing U.S. ef­forts in Afghanistan was grim. The an­a­lysts con­cluded that the Afghan gov­ern­ment and in­sur­gents are at a stale­mate, the num­ber of “se­cu­rity in­ci­dents” in the coun­try is spik­ing, and the gov­ern­ment’s rev­enue is tum­bling. Its own re­sources ac­count for just 40 per­cent of its an­nual bud­get.

Opi­ate pro­duc­tion in the coun­try also dou­bled be­tween 2015 and 2016, the in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ported.

But Amer­i­can ef­forts in the coun­try have also been plagued with prob­lems, with cash be­ing wasted left and right. The au­di­tors said Amer­i­can of­fi­cials are es­sen­tially con­fined to the em­bassy com­pound, mean­ing they can’t over­see the bil­lions of dol­lars the U.S. has spent on in­fra­struc­ture and so­cial pro­grams in the trou­bled na­tion.

All told, the U.S. has ob­li­gated $714 bil­lion for war fight­ing and re­con­struc­tion, the in­spec­tor gen­eral said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

“Pres­i­dent Obama’s ‘don’t lose’ strat­egy has put us on a path to achiev­ing the op­po­site re­sult,” said Sen. John Mc­Cain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, on Thurs­day.

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