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John McCain to force vote on new Afghanistan war strategy

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 U.S. 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 driven by debate over what to do in the war-torn nation, which continues to backslide on a host of security yardsticks.

Mr. McCain said he’s been disappointed by both President Barack Obama and President Trump, and delivered a spanking to them both.

“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 been 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 Trump administration had promised Mr. McCain last month that it would have an Afghanistan strategy by mid-July.

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.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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