U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain arrived in Kabul on Saturday openly criticizing the Barack Obama administration’s handling of the U.S. withdraw from Afghanistan.
At a press conference on Saturday, the senior Republican Senator said that President Obama has a weak understanding of the timeframe set for U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan. He criticized the idea of a “deadline” for troops to withdraw, echoing comments that have been made by independent analysts in the wake of the Iraq war and that country’s subsequent deterioration.
“I think the most serious mistake that the United States could make – in a betrayal of the brave Americans who have served here and the brave Afghans who serve and have continued to sacrifice – would be to have a calendar based withdraw,” Mr. McCain told reporters on Saturday. “That would be a tragedy, and, in my view, a door opening for the Taliban to gain great success here in Afghanistan, and I don’t believe that the people of Afghanistan want a return to Taliban governance,” he added.
The American senator, who ran against Obama in the 2008 presidential election in the United States, said the withdraw of U.S. troops should be based on conditions on the ground and on the best advice of military commanders.
McCain also said that the American people would welcome the peaceful deployment of more troops in Afghanistan. “What I think is very important is for us to determine the objectives of our involvement in Afghanistan and then assess what the requirements are to achieve those objectives and develop a strategy rather than just setting a calendar based withdraw,” he said.
The senator, who served in the U.S. military in the Vietnam war, expressed concerns about the Taliban’s gains this year as well as the emergence of Daesh militants in Afghanistan.
“It also means that the Taliban still has significant capabilities and those capabilities can best be countered by continued United States military support, and without that, then it places at risk the ability of the Afghan military, which is doing the fighting […] that’s why so many of us and so many military leaders that I know who have been here in leadership positions in Kabul say that we should base our withdraw on the conditions,” McCain said.
The Republic Party in the U.S. has long been a proponent of continued military involvement in Afghanistan, positioning itself as a counterweight to Obama’s commitment to pulling U.S. troops out during his presidency.