McCain goes all in: fight or retreat

Go all in or go home. An exasperated Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) offered that stunning new take on the war in Afghanistan on Thursday, saying the U.S. should either halt the drawdown from Afghanistan and leave 68,000 troops there to fight through 2014, or consider ending the war altogether.
The statement from McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and leading Republican voice on the war, came as a criticism of President Obama’s stated plans to steadily reduce troop levels in Afghanistan. McCain has long questioned if the mission to build Afghan forces and hand over security to them by 2015 is possible with a concurrent troop pullout.
But it also was a publically delivered message to Obama’s presumed next Afghanistan war commander, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who appeared in his confirmation hearing.
“If we can’t accomplish the mission, I’m not sure why we should stay,” McCain said, offering a view of the war virtually unheard during the presidential campaign season that just ended.
“There’s three of us here, general, who have been going over there for the last 11 years.” McCain continued. “And we haven’t seen the progress that we had hoped would take place. And we do see quite often sentiment by the part of Afghans and their neighbors that the United States spends most of its time announcing withdrawals and dates for withdrawals rather than recipes for success. Some of us, as I say, we’ve been observing this for a long, long time, made many, many visits and many, many briefings, are deeply concerned.”
Dunford is nominated to succeed Gen. John Allen, whose nomination to take over NATO has been put on hold while a Defense Department investigation looks into tens of thousands of pages of emails the Pentagon said include “flirtatious” exchanges with a married woman in Florida.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call