John McCain, Lindsey Graham call for more troops to break Afghanistan ‘stalemate’

Mar 15, 2017, 9:56 AM | Updated: 9:58 am
Security forces inspect the site of attack on a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday,...

Security forces inspect the site of attack on a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Gunmen stormed a military hospital in Afghanistan's capital on Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding more than 60, setting off clashes with security forces that were still underway hours later. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

PHOENIX — Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) this week called for an influx of forces to break what they perceive as a “stalemate” in Afghanistan.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, the senators argued that a restrictive U.S. policy and lack of boots on the ground handcuffs military action in the embattled nation, one in which America is still at war with terror groups such as al-Qaida.

Make no mistake: Afghans are fighting ferociously to defend their country from our common enemies. At the same time, we must recognize that the United States is still at war in Afghanistan against the terrorist enemies who attacked our nation on Sept. 11 and their ideological heirs. We must act accordingly.

In a specific example, McCain and Graham said the U.S. was blocked from targeting Taliban forces last summer, but forces were allowed to target Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. They argued the lack of action allows the Taliban to rebuild and recover when it suffers a loss, especially when it reportedly receives aid from nations such as Russia and Iran.

The senators said that lack of action has led to a stalemate, something Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. He said the Afghan government only holds power in 57 percent of the country’s districts, down from 72 percent last year.

McCain and Graham said the U.S. has adopted a sort of “don’t lose” mindset in Afghanistan, instead of sticking to its original objective of preventing terror groups from using the country to attack America.

The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years. Weary as some Americans may be of this long conflict, it is imperative that we see our mission through to success.

In addition to the unspecified troop increase — made up of both U.S. and coalition soldiers — they called for more and sustained support of Afghan government and security institutions so that the country can learn to defend itself from al-Qaida and others.

In a related move, McCain and several other senators introduced a bill Wednesday that would provide 2,500 additional visas to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program. The program allows those that assisted U.S. forces to apply for refugee status in America.

“We simply cannot win this war without the assistance of the Afghan people who put their lives on the line to help American troops and diplomats serving in harm’s way,” McCain said in a release.

“Unfortunately in recent years, Congress has reneged on the promise we made to protect these brave individuals by failing to authorize the appropriate number of Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan translators and interpreters. It’s because of our failure that the lives of thousands of Afghans are in imminent danger from the Taliban.”

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John McCain, Lindsey Graham call for more troops to break Afghanistan ‘stalemate’