US still has no path to success in Afghanistan, says John McCain

'None of us would say that we are on a course to success here in Afghanistan,' says Mr McCain

Kay Johnson
Kabul
Tuesday 04 July 2017 21:51 BST
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Senator John McCain, centre, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, with Senators Elizabeth Warren, left, and Lindsey Graham in the background
Senator John McCain, centre, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, with Senators Elizabeth Warren, left, and Lindsey Graham in the background (Rahmat Gul/AP)

A bipartisan delegation of US senators have called for a new strategy in Afghanistan from the Trump administration to turn the tide against an increasingly strong Taliban insurgency and end the longest war in US history.

The delegation led by Senator John McCain was in Kabul on a regional trip that included two days in neighbouring Pakistan.

The visit preceded an expected review later in the month of the strategy for the United States longest war, now in its 16th year, a subject that was largely absent from last year'€™s presidential campaign.

Since the exit of most foreign troops in 2014, Afghanistan'€™s US-backed government has lost ground to a Taliban insurgency in a war that kills and maims thousands of civilians each year and has made Afghanistan the second-ranking country in people seeking refugee status abroad last year, behind Syria.

Mr McCain said in a Kabul press briefing on Tuesday at NATO-coalition headquarters that “none of us would say that we are on a course to success here in Afghanistan”.

“That needs to change and quickly,” added Senator McCain, a sharp critic of Trump within their Republican party.

Mr McCain was accompanied by US senators Lindsey Graham, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse and David Perdue on the regional tour.

Ms Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said she came to get “the view on the ground about what is happening” in Afghanistan. “We need a strategy in the United States that defines our role in Afghanistan, defines our objective and explains how we can get from here to there,” Ms Warren said.

US officials have said that Defence Secretary Jim Mattis will present Mr Trump with strategic options for Afghanistan by mid-July. Last month, Mr Trump gave Mr Mattis the authority to set American troop levels in Afghanistan, but as commander in chief Mr Trump must sign off on an overall strategy for the war.

US security officials have privately said the most likely options will be to increase training and air support by 3,000 to 5,000 troops for still-inexperienced Afghan security forces, while also tracking down al-Qaeda, Isis and other global Islamist groups based in Afghanistan.

The commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, has said “several thousand” more foreign troops - mostly trainers - are needed to break a military stalemate with the Taliban.

In 2001, a US-backed military intervention in Afghanistan toppled the Taliban regime, whose ultra-hardline interpretation of sharia law banned most women from public life and executed people not seen as sufficiently pious, such as men with beards not considered long enough.

More than 15 years later, around 10,000 US and allied troops remain in Afghanistan to support an elected government that has increasingly been losing ground to a Taliban insurgency that now controls or contests some 40 per cent of territory in the country.

Reuters

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