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Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, today urged President Obama to move with "deliberate speed" on a decision to increase troops in Afghanistan as his generals have requested, saying that to disregard their advice would be an "error of historic proportions."
McCain said on CNN's State of the Union that Obama should back General Stanley McChrystal's proposal for an increase of 40,000 troops and resist a "half measure" aimed at placating political opponents of deeper U.S. involvement. " McChrystal, the top general in Afghanistan, warned last month that the conflict would likely end in failure without more troops.
"To disregard the requirements that have been laid out and agreed to by Gen. (David) Petraeus and Admiral (Mike) Mullen would be an error of historic proportions," McCain said.
On CBS' Face the Nation, Senate Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell echoed McCain's view, saying "I think the smart thing to do here -- and I hope this is what the president's going to do, and if he does, I think he'll have broad support -- is to listen to General Petraeus and General McChrystal."
Petraeus is the head of the U.S. Central Command and Mullen is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. McChrystal was made the top commander in Afghanistan in May when the Obama administration grew unhappy with the lack of progress made under the previous commander, Gen. David McKiernan.
With opposition growing among the public and, in particular, Democrats, to deeper involvement in Afghanistan, some administration officials - notably, Vice President Biden - have called instead for a strategy that requires a smaller American foot print, such as increased used of special forces and Predator drone strikes, plus faster training of the Afghan army.
Asked whether he believed the U.S. could win with less than the 40,000 additional troops requested by McChrystal, McCain said, "I do not. And I think the great danger now is not an American pullout. I think the great danger now is a half measure sort of (to) try to please all ends of the political spectrum."
McCain said an approach such as the one attributed to Biden "would be the counter-terrorism strategy that we attempted in Iraq under (former Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld and Gen. (George) Casey. It didn't succeed."
Referring to the big U.S. surge in Iraq that the U.S. ultimately undertook, McCain said, "The strategy that was developed by Gen. Petraeus in particular, but also with Gen. McChrystal as his strong right arm, did succeed there."
McCain also warned that failure to act soon would unsettle U.S. allies in the region "are beginning to get the impression that perhaps we are wavering, especially in light of the fact that the President announced that we did have a strategy."
McCain was referring to Obama's speech in March when he ordered a fresh infusion of troops to counter what he described as an "increasingly perilous" situation in Afghanistan.
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat, acknowledged the seriousness of the situation on the groun on ABC's This Week. "I reviewed all of the intelligence and looked at the situation, and it was pretty clear to me that violence was up 100 percent, 950 attacks in August.," she said. "The Taliban now controls 37 percent of the people in the areas where these people are. Attrition in police is running 67 percent, either killed or leaving the service. And the mission is in serious jeopardy."
But when it comes to what decision Obama should make, she added, "I think the counterinsurgency strategy, which means protecting the people, not shooting from afar, but securing, taking, holding, and providing security for a period of time is really critical."
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