McCain Says Afghanistan War Only Really Got Started In 2009

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) again attacked President Obama’s strategy to withdraw the so-called “surge” forces from Afghanistan by next summer, complaining that it had “no military recommendation.” McCain said U.S. forces cannot withdraw so quickly because Pakistan is giving insurgents sanctuary.

“But the reality is,” Gregory said, “we have been at it over a decade now. The sanctuary problem has been with us the entire time.” Gregory told McCain that “there are going to be people who are watching who’ll say why are we still there?” But the Arizona Republican dismissed this, saying the war there is only just getting started:

MCCAIN: First of all, on the ten-year thing, the fact is we have only had a surge for a couple of years now since the President announced it, as you know, at West Point. So we have had a very short time. There’s no doubt that we have had significant success particularly in the southern part of Afghanistan. The reason why I worry a lot is I’m not sure we have a sufficient number of troops for another fighting season so we can gain control in the eastern side of the country.

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So according to McCain — despite nearly 1,000 American deaths and tens of billions spent through 2009 — the war in Afghanistan is basically now just beginning, or began in 2009 when President Obama decided to send tens of thousands more troops there. But maybe McCain didn’t realize there has been a war going on there since 2001 seeing that he tended to skip his Senate committee hearings on the war, or that as early as 2004, thought the U.S. had already won and continued to call it a “success” for years after. But also, just like President Bush, the Iraq war distracted McCain from Afghanistan.

Throughout the last ten years, McCain has been regularly and consistently wrong about Afghanistan. As New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote, “As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.”

But of course, if he were president, McCain would buck the chain of command and defer to whatever the military says the U.S. should do in Afghanistan. After all, shortly before Obama made his decision to send more troops there, McCain said he shouldn’t worry about an exit strategy.