- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sen. John McCain Friday denounced President Obama´s new plan for sending more troops to Afghanistan, saying it was “not enough” and suggesting the president ought to have been clearer that there will be more troop casualties.

The Arizona Republican who ran against Mr. Obama last year said he was glad the president put the issue “front and center,” but worried Mr. Obama hadn’t offered a realistic enough picture of the likely increase in casualties that can be expected with the surge of troops.

“The president talked about how tough it is, but I would have begun and ended this speech with how difficult it’s going to be and that things are going to get worse before they get better,” Mr. McCain said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Mr. Obama announced Friday he will be sending 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, joining the 17,000 new troops he sent earlier this year. Mr. Obama also proposed tripling U.S. nonmilitary aid and boosting the diplomatic effort with a push for more civilian help in the region.

The troop levels aren’t rigid, and there will be ongoing reviews of the policy, administration advisers said.

“There’s a little bit of incrementalism in that, that could make the decision tougher this fall when the situation is tougher,” said Mr. McCain, whose steadfast support of the surge of troops in Iraq was proven right. Mr. Obama opposed the tactic in Iraq.

Mr. McCain said he would send three additional brigades, or around 40,000 additional troops, and suggested a 250,000-person Afghan army instead of the 134,000-strong army the administration aims for.

The Republican said while he appreciates allies who are helping with the effort, some allies have “almost laughable” restrictions on where they will operate. For example, German troops won’t go south in the region, he said.

“It’s American leadership, it’s going to be American military effectiveness working with Afghans that win or lose,” he said.

Mr. McCain also criticized the new administration’s approach on Pakistan, saying the nuclear power nation deserves a separate plan instead of the merged regional plan Mr. Obama presented, with a goal of rooting out the Taliban and purging al Qaeda.

Mr. McCain also told The Times that the economy factors into war policy for both the United States and its European allies.

Asked his benchmark for success in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain answered when it no longer serves as an operating base for terrorist attacks and has a functioning government with a political and economic path to sustained security.

While Mr. McCain agreed the Afghan population lives primarily in rural areas, the opposite of the situation in Iraq, he said despite the differing terrain the strategy need not be so different.

He said the top priority must be securing the environment for the Afghan people, noting that because an insurgent can only walk 12 miles per night, platoons could set up between towns and not in every town.

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