5,500 troops insufficient to perform critical tasks: McCain
“However, I am concerned that the number of troops will not be sufficient to perform the critical tasks being set for them: counterterrorism and continuing to train and advise our Afghan partners,” McCain said in a statement ahead of Obama’s formal announcement.
The top senator said it was highly unlikely that a force level of 5,500 troops had been recommended as the best professional judgment of senior US military leaders and commanders on the ground in Afghanistan.
“The bottom line is that 5,500 troops will only be adequate to conduct either the counterterrorism or the train and advise mission, but not both,” he said, arguing that US military commanders had said that both were critical to prevent Afghanistan from spiraling into chaos.
He said a time when the security situation in key parts of Afghanistan was deteriorating and ISIL seeking to make in-roads, it made no military sense to withdraw US forces.
“Once again, President Obama is putting our mission in Afghanistan, as well as our men and women serving there, at greater risk, and he is doing so for the sake of a troop reduction that has no political benefit, but could have significant military implications,” he charged.
“All of us want the war in Afghanistan to be over, but after 14 years of hard-fought gains, the decisions we make now will determine whether our progress will endure and our sacrifices will not have been in vain,” he said.
“When the stakes are so high, it is hard to understand why the President has again chosen to force our military to shoulder a higher level of risk to be successful.”
He said it would have been far better to halt all further troop withdrawals and allow President Obama's successor to determine what was warranted based on conditions on the ground.
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