Tuesday, John McCain delivered a high-profile speech on his Afghanistan policy, and unfortunately for his campaign, it didn’t go well. He went from opposing more troops in Afghanistan, to supporting more troops, to saying the troops shouldn’t come from the U.S., to saying some of the troops should come from the U.S. Ultimately, McCain ended up supporting the same policy Barack Obama has been articulating for months.
Yesterday, the Obama campaign kept the pressure on.
Building on Tuesday’s news cycle, when the campaigns’ respective speeches on Afghanistan dominated headlines, the Obama camp organized an early morning conference call on Wednesday. Senior foreign policy adviser Dr. Susan Rice and communications strategist Robert Gibbs were offered up to reporters. Dr. Rice opened the proceedings by calling McCain’s Tuesday speech “surreal” because of the candidate’s newfound emphasis on the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (Later in the afternoon on Tuesday, after his speech, McCain appeared to be trying to take some of that back, when he noted that an increased troop level could potentially be achieved by using NATO forces.)
“Up until a few days ago, his view was that we hadn’t diverted any effort and attention from Afghanistan to deal with Iraq. That there was no need for additional American forces in Afghanistan. That all, in effect, was going well,” Dr. Rice said Wednesday, adding: “Yesterday, he woke up and came to the sudden conclusion that indeed Afghanistan merited more strategic focus — something the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been saying for months — and that we would therefore be willing to put in additional combat brigades. But then he got confused again, as to whether those needed to be American or NATO [troops] or some combination thereof.” [emphasis added]