Top Mitt Romney foreign policy surrogate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said today that he would have pulled out U.S. troops from Afghanistan “a lot earlier” than the 2014 timeline President Obama has announced “if I had seen a scenario such as this that is unwinding.”
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, McCain’s stance on Afghanistan was a confusing muddle — similar to that of Romney and his campaign aides. First McCain attacked Obama’s timeline. Moments later he said that, as president, he would have pulled U.S. troops out sooner and just minutes after that, McCain said the U.S. needs more troops and supplies:
SCARBOROUGH: We’ve been there for over a decade, how much longer can we stay there. You know the American people only put up with foreign occupations for so long and wars, how much longer would a President McCain have us stay there.
MCCAIN: I would have a long time ago set certain goals to be achieved associated with timing and not saying that all we’re doing is leaving. And if I had seen a scenario such as this that is unwinding, I would have gotten out a lot earlier to tell you the truth. This is inevitable that the Taliban is coming back, IED’s continue to flow from Pakistan and look, it is unraveling. You are having the worst kind of morale situation you could possibly have and that is your allies that you can’t trust. …
GEIST: What would you do today. Why would another year, another five years, another 10 years change in Afghanistan?
MCCAIN: I would make a decision as to whether we would have sufficient number of troops, listening to my military leadership to remain there to carry out an environment where the Afghan military are capable of carrying out those responsibilities and if that is not politically possible or militarily possible then I would make plans for withdrawing earlier — -
GEIST: So then you believe that a few more years there would change the dynamic of the security?
MCCAIN: Not a few more years. Additional troops, additional supplies, additional kinds of efforts that were succeeding, that were succeeding and are not now.
Watch the clip:
Last month McCain floated the idea of withdrawing from Afghanistan more rapidly than President Obama currently plans, a surprising statement given that the Arizona Republican has repeatedly attacked the White House’s withdrawal plan. McCain then quickly walked back those comments saying a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan “would be the wost possible course of action.”
But McCain’s back and forth is emblematic of the Republicans and the Romney campaign’s confusion on Afghanistan — on the one hand seeming to want to placate the neocons and on the other, trying to side with the rest of the country.