In today’s Washington Post, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ) have an op-ed calling for a robust “comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency approach” to the war in Afghanistan, demonstrating “unambiguous U.S. political commitment to success…over the long haul”:
As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a “minimalist” approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. [...]
Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency.
This pivot to Afghanistan is new for McCain. During the presidential campaign, when Barack Obama was already calling Afghanistan the “central front” in the war on terrorism, McCain was still insisting it was Iraq.
McCAIN: I am concerned about it, but I’m not as concerned as I am about Iraq today — obviously, or I’d be talking about Afghanistan — but I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that in the long term we may muddle through in Afghanistan.
Last month when McCain was delivering a speech on Afghanistan at AEI, the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss challenged the senator on his comments. McCain was at a loss for a response, other than, “Well, obviously you are taking that statement out of context.”