McCain to Meet with Afghan Leaders During Holiday Troop Visit

Sen. John McCain will celebrate the Fourth of July in Afghanistan in what is becoming an annual holiday tradition for the Senate Armed Services chairman.

The Arizona Republican also will meet with Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah, according to two U.S. officials with knowledge of the senator's plans.

McCain has spent numerous holidays in Afghanistan, including Christmas Day in 2014. Last year, he was also joined in Kabul over the Fourth of July by fellow Armed Services member and close friend Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

While in Afghanistan in December, McCain met with Ghani and Abdullah. When Ghani addressed a joint meeting of Congress in March, Abdullah sat next to Arizona senator.

The Republican has welcomed the successor to Hamid Karzai, who had a contentious relationship with U.S. officials during his final years as president.

“He is a great man, a great leader and he is a dramatic improvement over his predecessor,” McCain told CQ Roll Call about Ghani. 

During Ghani's visit to Washington, President Barack Obama assented to requests from Ghani, McCain and a bipartisan chorus of lawmakers who sought to slow the U.S. military's pullout from Afghanistan. 

Troop levels will remain at 9,800 through the end of 2015, according to the White House, which noted in a statement following the decision that "the specific trajectory of the 2016 U.S. troop drawdown will be established later in 2015 to enable the U.S. troop consolidation to a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of 2016.”

McCain and others have called for a “conditions-based,” as opposed to a “calendar-based,” withdrawal.

Ghani has spoken out about how terrorism has ravaged Afghanistan and warned that the Islamic State was seeking to spread its influence in the country.