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Senator McCain's Weekly Radio Address

July 19, 2008

Good morning. I'm John McCain, and this week, debate in the presidential campaign turned to the war in Afghanistan. My opponent, Senator Obama, announced his strategy for Afghanistan and Iraq before departing on a fact-finding mission that will include visits to both those countries. Apparently, he's confident enough that he won't find any facts that might change his opinion or alter his strategy. Remarkable.

This is similar to the mistake Senator Obama made when he confidently declared that the surge in Iraq could not possibly reduce sectarian violence there, and might well increase violence. He was so certain the surge would fail that he called for our troops to retreat as quickly as possible. Senator Obama's previous statements against the surge have been hastily removed from his campaign website, in the audacious hope that no one would notice. But we all remember quite well that he said the surge would fail, and today we know that he was wrong.

Although the situation in Iraq is much improved, the war in Afghanistan has taken a bad turn that must be quickly reversed. Security in that country has deteriorated, and our enemies are on the offensive. And it is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to victory over the Taliban.

Our commanders on the ground in Afghanistan say they need at least three additional brigades. I will ensure our commanders in Afghanistan get the troops they need by asking NATO to send more and by sending U.S. troops as they become available.

But sending more forces, by itself, is not enough to prevail. What we need in Afghanistan is exactly what General David Petraeus brought to Iraq: a nationwide civil-military campaign plan that is focused on providing security for the population. Today no such integrated plan exists. When I am commander-in-chief, it will.

There are many differences between Afghanistan and Iraq, which any plan must account for. But, as in Iraq, the center of gravity is the security of the population. The good news is that our soldiers in Afghanistan have begun to apply the lessons of Iraq -- especially in the east, where our forces are concentrated. These efforts, however, are too piecemeal. They are the work of innovative local commanders, rather than a strategy for the entire country. In particular, American forces must re-engage deeper in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban stronghold.

A cardinal rule in any military operation is unity of command, and this has been lacking in our Afghan campaign. Today, there are three different American military combatant commands operating in Afghanistan, as well as NATO. And some of their members operate under national restrictions as to where their troops can go and what they can do. This is not a smart military practice, and it is not how wars are won. As commander-in-chief, I will work with our allies to ensure unity of command. Moreover, with help from other nations, we must double the size of Afghanistan's own fighting forces to 160,000 troops -- so that battle-tested Afghan soldiers can safeguard their own people.

A successful counterinsurgency requires all instruments of our national power, and that military and civilian leaders work together, at all levels, under a joint plan. Too often in Afghanistan this is not happening. So I will appoint a highly-respected national security leader, based in the White House and reporting directly to the president, whose sole mission will be to assure victory in Afghanistan.

A special focus of our regional strategy must be Pakistan, where terrorists are known to hide. One way to root them out is to strengthen local tribes in the border areas that are willing to fight them. Senator Obama has spoken in public about taking unilateral military action in Pakistan. But in trying to sound tough, he has only made it harder to enlist the full support of Pakistan in the fight against terrorists.

In a time of war, the commander-in-chief's job doesn't get a learning curve. And if I have that privilege, I will bring to the job many years of military and political experience. It was this experience that guided me in the conviction that the surge in Iraq could turn things around, and clear a path to victory. And I believe with equal conviction that we can prevail in Afghanistan, assuring freedom to the Afghan people and greater security to the American people.

Thanks for listening.

John McCain, Senator McCain's Weekly Radio Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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