John McCain announces his own strategy for Afghanistan

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  • Sen. John McCain says, 'We must face facts: we are losing in Afghanistan'
  • He wants an agreement for an enduring US counterterrorism presence in the country

(CNN)Sen. John McCain on Thursday unveiled his own strategy for the US in Afghanistan — a step he says he's taking because President Donald Trump's administration isn't coming up with one.

McCain's Afghan strategy includes adding more US troops for counterterrorism missions, increasing US airpower to aid Afghan forces and providing the US military with broader authority to target enemy forces including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The Arizona Republican also would have the US military advising Afghan forces at the Kandak, or battalion level, which is about 600 troops.
    "We must face facts: we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide," McCain said in a statement. "We need an integrated civil-military approach to bolster U.S. counterterrorism efforts, strengthen the capability and capacity of the Afghan government and security forces, and intensify diplomatic efforts to facilitate a negotiated peace process in Afghanistan in cooperation with regional partners."
    McCain wants the US to enter into an agreement with the Afghan government for an enduring US counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan, and he wants to put more pressure on Pakistan to stop providing sanctuaries to the Taliban and Haqqani Network.
    The goal, he says, is to create security conditions in the country that would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
    McCain has repeatedly criticized Trump and his national security team for months for failing to come up with a strategy for Afghanistan. The Trump White House has been divided between two factions, with national security adviser H.R. McMaster seeking to bolster US troops there, and Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon opposing additional US forces.
    Defense Secretary James Mattis pledged he would give McCain an Afghan strategy by July, but there has been no public sign that such a strategy has materialized.
    McCain outlined his plan as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill he leads as chairman of the Senate armed services committee.
    McCain, who currently is undergoing cancer treatment, plans to return to the Senate next month so the bill can be debated on the floor.
    McCain's amendment is a "sense of Congress" provision, which means it would not force the Trump administration to take any action. But if it's adopted in the bill, it would provide a symbolic marker that Congress wants an enduring US counterterrorism presence in Afghanistan.