The head of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John McCain, has told VOA's Afghan service that President Barack Obama's well-publicized plan for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2017 was making the Taliban much bolder.
He said this worried him “a great deal.”
"The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, especially in places like Kandahar, and it's obvious that the Taliban believe that we are leaving or reducing our force so much that it has encouraged them, placing a very, very heavy burden on the Afghan military and army," the senator said.
WATCH: US Senator McCain Worried 'Great Deal' By Taliban Advances
McCain said the next president, Democrat or Republican, will have to maintain a much larger force in Afghanistan, and perhaps even a permanent presence there.
“We have a permanent presence in Japan, Germany, Korea, Bosnia," he said. "We have had permanent presence of our military for a long time in many places in the world. If we can bring peace to Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban, Americans would be very supportive.”
IS in Afghanistan
McCain also said he is glad that U.S. forces have now been authorized to target Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan. But he criticized the change in policy as coming late, given that IS will "be hard to beat." He said the group is growing not only in Afghanistan, but Libya, Egypt and other countries.
He added that he does not believe there is a strategy in place that will stop the growth of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
WATCH: US Senator McCain on IS in Afghanistan
Also Tuesday, an Afghan police officer with alleged ties to the Taliban killed 10 fellow officers in a brutal attack in Uruzgan province.
A spokesman for the provincial governor said the officer drugged his colleagues before shooting them to death at a security post in the Chinarto district. The spokesman said the suspect allegedly took the dead officers' weapons and fled.
But a Taliban spokesman claimed insurgents attacked the security post and killed all the officers. Taliban claims are often exaggerated and hard to verify independently.
Second attack in two weeks
The insider attack from within the Afghan police in Uruzgan was the second such incident in the last two weeks.
Provincial officials reported on January 17 that four police officers, suspected collaborators with the Taliban, killed nine colleagues before defecting to the insurgency with all their weapons and ammunition.
Insider attacks by Afghan partners became a major security challenge to the U.S.-led NATO forces while they were conducting joint combat missions in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2013.
The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities across Afghanistan over the past year.
VOA's Kenneth Schwartz and Ayaz Gul contributed to this report.