Saturday, December 16, 2017

Senator John McCain has said he’ll hold up Donald Trump’s nominees for key Defence Department posts until the President articulates a more detailed strategy for the war in Afghanistan.

Mr McCain, the chairman of the influential Senate Armed Services Committee, said the panel needs new information in order to properly outfit the US armed forces with training and equipment. 

“If we don’t get the information we need, we can’t do that,” Mr McCain told reporters. 

He added that the Trump administration acts as though Congress isn’t a co-equal branch of government, “and that they don’t have to respond to what the Constitution says.”

Mr McCain has received praise from Democrats as he has continued to voice his misgivings about several of the President’s policies and objectives. 

In Philadelphia on Monday night, the six-term Republican senator from Arizona questioned “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in America’s foreign policy.

“To abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” he said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

The feud escalated on Tuesday when Mr Trump replied, “I fight back”, and continued to bemoan Mr McCain’s decision to vote against a bill that would have repealed and replaced Obamacare. 

Mr McCain, a former prisoner of war who is currently battling brain cancer, simply responded: “I have faced tougher adversaries.”

Mr Trump in August softened his resistance to committing American forces abroad when he declared that he would increase the US’s involvement in Afghanistan rather than scale it back.

As part of his Afghanistan strategy – which is aimed at fighting terrorism – the Pentagon is boosting troop numbers by about 3,500, augmenting the roughly 11,000 Americans already stationed there. 

But since then, the Trump administration has been scant on the details regarding the President’s new approach, according to Mr McCain. 

The Obama administration had set in place timelines for reducing the number of US troops in Afghanistan as the country’s own forces took greater control of their own security. 

What remains unclear to the armed services committee, McCain said, is how the modest increase in troop size could turn the tide in Afghanistan when that goal couldn’t be achieved with tens of thousands of US forces. 

A Senate website shows 17 Defence Department nominations before the committee that could be affected by the standoff.

“I have no idea, nor do I care,” Mr McCain told reporters when asked how many nominees are being delayed.