December 1, 2009
Posted: 10:49 PM ET
By JEFF ZELENY AND CARL HULSE via The New York Times
Senator John McCain on Tuesday expressed support for the plan to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, but said he objected to setting a date for an exit strategy to begin as early as 2011.
“Dates for withdrawal are dictated by conditions,” Mr. McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The way that you win wars is to break the enemy’s will, not to announce dates that you are leaving.”
The political difficulty President Obama faces in winning Congressional support for his proposed troop buildup in Afghanistan was evident even before he laid out his strategy.
On the one hand, a bipartisan group of House and Senate members strongly criticized the troop increase plan as a serious mistake. At the same time, senior Senate Republicans raised concerns about the prospect that the president would set a time limit on the American presence in Afghanistan.
Mr. McCain will be the leading Republican voice on the president’s strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His concerns about setting a timetable to withdraw troops could well set the tone for Republicans. If he supports Mr. Obama’s plan, chances are that others will follow. If he doesn’t, they might not.
The military strategy appears to be “modeled on the surge in Iraq,” Mr. McCain said, which he added, “I think will succeed.” Mr. McCain said the United States “should have a goal of being out the day after tomorrow – a goal.” But not, he said, a date as specific as July 2011.
Mr. McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, was among the members of Congress receiving a briefing from the president and vice president on Tuesday afternoon.
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