McCain on Afghanistan at AEI
11:13 AM, Feb 25, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Senator McCain is just now delivering a speech at AEI on the war in Afghanistan. Some highlights:
Full text of the speech after the jump.More than three years ago, I spoke at AEI about the war in Iraq. At that time, conditions on the ground were going from bad to worse. Violence had accelerated out of control, al Qaeda had firmly entrenched itself in Anbar province, and Iranian-backed Shia militias had taken control of large swaths of Baghdad and southern Iraq. The Iraqi government and its security forces appeared hopelessly corrupt, sectarian, ineffective, and unable to break the cycle of reciprocal violence fueled by Sunni and Shiite extremists. The Bush administration continued to pursue a failed war strategy-despite mounting evidence of its catastrophic consequences.
More and more Americans, members of Congress and opinion leaders wondered whether the war in Iraq could ever be won, or whether it was already lost.
It seemed obvious to me that failure in Iraq would be a calamity, and to prevent it we would have to accept the urgent necessity of a new strategy - a strategy based on the fundamental principles of counterinsurgency, the imperative to secure the civilian population, and a significant increase in the number of American troops. Yet more than a year passed, as the deteriorating situation in Iraq approached the point of no return and a substantial majority of Americans turned firmly against the war, before President Bush at last shifted course, dismissed Secretary Rumsfeld, and adopted such a strategy.
Thanks to the courage and skill of our troops on the ground and the wisdom of leaders such as General David Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and General Ray Odierno, the collapse of the American effort in Iraq was not just arrested but reversed. With the right strategy finally in place - and I should note the intellectual contributions to it by General Jack Keane, Fred and Kim Kagan, Andrew Krepinevich, and Gary Schmitt - and the resources on the ground necessary to implement it, we not only stepped back from the precipice of a strategic disaster of immense and long lasting consequences, but progressed toward obtaining our objectives in Iraq beyond the
We now face a similar moment with respect to the war in Afghanistan. The situation in Afghanistan is nowhere near as dire as it was in Iraq just two years ago - to cite one example, civilian fatalities at their peak in Iraq were ten times higher than civilian deaths at their peak in Afghanistan last year. But the same truth that was apparent three years ago in Iraq is apparent today in Afghanistan: when you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either.