Kabul: The ranking Republican on the US Senate
Armed Services Committee said NATO and Afghan troops will
prevail in the war if they can succeed in securing and
bolstering governance in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
Sen John McCain, who visited Afghanistan`s largest city
in the south yesterday with two other US lawmakers, warned
of tough fighting ahead and predicted that casualties would
rise in the short-term.
"The Taliban know that Kandahar is the key to success or
failure," McCain told a news conference at the airport in
"So what happens in this operation will have a great
effect on the outcome of this conflict. But I am convinced we
can succeed and will succeed, and Kandahar is obviously the
key area. And if succeed there, we will succeed in the rest of
McCain, a Republican from Arizona, also reiterated his
opposition to President Barack Obama`s plan to begin
withdrawing troops from Afghanistan beginning in July 2011.
Obama has said that large numbers of troops would not be
pulled out if conditions did not allow, but that caveat has
often gotten lost in the discussion over the length of US
commitment to the war.
McCain said he expected progress to be made in
Afghanistan between now and July 2011. "But we must not tell
the enemy that we will begin leaving when we have not finished
the job," he said.
During a two-day visit, McCain and Sen Lindsey Graham, a
Republican from South Carolina who is on the Armed Services
Committee, and Sen Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from
Connecticut who is chairman of the Homeland Security and
Governmental Affairs Committee, met with Gen David Petraeus,
the newly installed NATO commander, Afghan President Hamid
Karzai and US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry.
Lieberman said he understood that Obama wanted to use the
July 2011 timetable to send the message that the US would not
be in Afghanistan forever. Still, he said he thought the
president was wrong to set it. "We hear it everywhere we go
here. They say they think we`re leaving. We`re not going to
leave until we win."
McCain also said he expected Petraeus to refine the rules
of engagement on the battlefield.
"Probably there will be some tweaking," McCain said. "We
get that impression from him."