marines McCain unveils new strategy for Afghanistan

US Marines salute during a handover ceremony at Leatherneck Camp in Lashkar Gah in the Afghan province of Helmand on April 29, 2017. ( WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

By Matt Saintsing

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) followed through on a promise to submit a new strategy for America’s role in Afghanistan if President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t.

Included in the proposed strategy is an increase in U.S. troops to conduct counterterrorism missions, increasing aid to Afghan air forces, and providing new targeting authorities for the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

“President Obama’s ‘don’t lose’ strategy has put us on a path to achieving the opposite result,” McCain said in a statement. “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 strategy also calls for a joint-agreement between the U.S. and Afghan governments, which would include “an enduring U.S. counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan.”

The goal of the strategy, according to McCain, is to ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a sanctuary for terrorists to plot and conduct attacks against the U.S. It does so by leveraging an integrated civil-military approach to strengthen the Afghan government to encourage a negotiated peace.

McCain, who is the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has called on the Trump administration to devise and implement a strategy for success in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has testified that the administration would submit an Afghan strategy—embedded within a broader strategy for South Asia—by mid-July. Currently, there are no signs of such a strategy.

“America’s Armed Forces in harm’s way in Afghanistan deserve leadership from Washington worthy of their service and sacrifice,” Said McCain. “Adopting a clear policy and strategy in Afghanistan, backed with the authorities and resources necessary for success, would be a critical step toward restoring that kind of leadership, which has been absent for far too long.”

McCain will return to Washington next month so the bill can be debated on the floor as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual military spending bill.

The amendment, if approved, it would signal that Congress seeks to have an ensuring U.S. counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan.

Connect: @MattBSaintsing |

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