ISLAMABAD - Spending the American Fourth of July holiday weekend with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan has become an annual ritual for John McCain.
The Arizona Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman visited Kabul again this year to meet the forces as well as top Afghan leadership.
McCain said he is suggesting that U.S. President Barack Obama re-evaluate conditions in Afghanistan and decide to keep open some of its military bases in the country beyond 2016.
McCain has always been against what he calls a “calendar-based withdrawal” from Afghanistan. He was also one of the lawmakers who joined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s calls to slow down the pullout from Afghanistan.
10,000 US personnel
Obama agreed to keep almost 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan this year, but announced he would like to reduce the numbers in a Kabul-based embassy presence by the end of next year.
During his visit, McCain suggested that the security situation in Afghanistan is evolving, and an embassy-based presence would not be enough personnel.
He wants the U.S. to maintain a much higher force level of up to 6,000 members, and keep the military bases in Bagram and Kandahar open.
“Those would be necessary in order to maintain the capability to support the Afghan armed services, the military, as they continue this fight against the Taliban," McCain said.
However, he warned that a total withdrawal might risk all the gains U.S. and NATO forces have made in Afghanistan during the past 15 years.