Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that security gains in Iraq could be lost if the new administration pulls troops out too quickly, but did not immediately dismiss the feasibility of President Barack Obama's 19-month timeframe.
The administration was finalizing details this week on a plan that would withdraw most of the 142,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by August 2010. The proposal would leave as many as 50,000 troops behind to advise and train Iraqi security forces and to protect U.S. interests.
McCain, who lost the presidency to Obama last year, suggested that the timeline — three months longer than Obama's campaign pledge but shorter than some military officials have advised — was an attempt to strike middle ground. He warned that while the plan might appease Americans weary of war, voters should keep in mind that casualties could continue.
"Let's also be realistic — advisers in any conflict are in harms' way," he told an audience at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
In his speech, McCain outlined steps the U.S. should take to win the war in Afghanistan, including spending more to develop the country's infrastructure and end the drug trade. He also suggested that the U.S. create an international fund to pay to expand the size of the Afghanistan army.
Since losing his White House bid to Obama, McCain has returned to Congress as the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.