McCain, Other Leaders Debate Troop Increases

Posted October 11, 2009 at 9:29am

Updated: 11:44 a.m.Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday said that President Barack Obama must agree to a request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who is reportedly seeking about 40,000 new troops for Afghanistan — and that failure to heed his advice would be “an error of historic proportions.—McCain, who appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,— charged that the “great danger— inherent in Obama’s deliberations about strategy and troop levels in Afghanistan is a “half measure— that would “try to please all ends of the political spectrum.—The White House has in the past denied that political considerations would inform Obama’s decision. Obama himself said last week his decision is likely to anger those at both ends of the political debate.McCain said Obama simply has to adopt his own strategy, which he said the president articulated last March when he called for defeating the Taliban. And McCain said that while the president must be “deliberate— in his thinking, the process is moving too slowly.“I do argue for some deliberate speed because our allies in the region are starting to get the sense that we’re wavering,— McCain said. “I think he’s too slow,— McCain said of retired Gen. James Jones, who as White House national security adviser is running the review process.”The president has to be deliberate, but we do have the strategy, we do have the leaders, and we have a successful strategy that worked in Iraq,— McCain said, referring to the surge of troops to the country ordered by former President George W. Bush.Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) echoed several of McCain’s remarks, suggesting the president needs to take McChrystal’s advice.“I don’t know how you put somebody in who is as crackerjack as Gen. McChrystal, who gives the president very solid recommendations, and not take those recommendations if you’re not going to pull out,— Feinstein said. “If you don’t want to take those recommendations, then you put your people in such jeopardy,— she added, saying “I think the decision has to be made sooner rather than later.—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was interviewed on CBS’s “Face the Nation,— said Obama would have “overwhelming Republican support for a large troop increase.But on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that rather than focusing on an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the United States should focus on a “surge of Afghan troops.”And Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), also appearing on “This Week,— called for an exit strategy.“Stabilizing Afghanistan does not mean a larger military footprint there,— McGovern said. “I also think we’re going bankrupt. We need to come up with a strategy that includes an exit strategy because it will also put pressure on the government of Afghanistan to step up to the plate, which it has not done so far.—Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who was also on “Face the Nation,— said “it may very well be that additional troops— are needed, but he appeared to question whether the numbers indicated by McChrystal are warranted. He said McChrystal’s analysis was “narrow— and did not take into account issues like the availability of resources, which is part of what Obama is considering.Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said that if Obama suggests a “half-measure” in Afghanistan strategy, “that will be a weakness,” while focusing solely on a counter-terrorism strategy would be a “failure.” At the same time, Graham said that what was needed on the ground in Afghanistan is more trainers for the Afghan national police, who are “getting slaughtered.”McCain also offered a firm defense of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), his running mate during the 2008 presidential campaign, rejecting the contention of former campaign adviser Steve Schmidt that her nomination in 2012 would be “catastrophic— for the GOP.“Let’s go through the process rather than condemning anyone’s chances,— McCain said. “We have some great people out there and Sarah Palin’s one of them.—McCain, defending his choice of Palin, said she energized Republicans and boosted his polls until the economy tanked. He acknowledged that there were “clearly tensions— within his campaign between Schmidt and the Palin camp.