Speaking from the American Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, with fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican Sen. John McCain said Sunday that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is prepared to handle the crisis in the Middle East.
"I don't think either one of them have displayed what I think is the necessary strategy and outlook, the planning and reliance on our military leaders that will be necessary to succeed," McCain said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I hope that whichever one is president that they would call in the David Petraeuses and the Robert Fords and the Ryan Crockers and those individuals, both military and State Department diplomats who succeeded in Iraq before the president gave it all away who know what we need to do to defeat this threat."
Will McCain still support Trump, in spite of his and his longtime foreign policy advisers' concerns about Trump's readiness for the job? "Well, as I've said, I would support the nominee of the party," McCain said. "I have strong disagreements, and we've just been through several of them, and that's my position."
Graham, meanwhile, said Clinton's call for a no-fly zone over Syria is a "step in the right direction"--then hit Trump for his suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could stay in office.
"When Trump says he would allow Assad to stay that tells me he has no idea what that means for the region," he said. "...Mr. Trump, when you said Assad should stay, you need to rethink that."
"The U.S. response should have been a long time ago not to withdraw everybody from Iraq, and now the president is on the verge of doing the same thing here in Afghanistan where things are not going well and he's insisting on cutting the numbers in half while the situation deteriorates," McCain said. "But what he should have done was to remain in Iraq while al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and now we see what we're seeing."
"What we need to do is go to Raqqa and kill them ... go take them out in Raqqa where they are now basing most of these, or at least some of these attacks," McCain added, asked about the next steps for the U.S. military in the Middle East. "And then get into the long ideological struggle to defeat this metastasizing evil that is afflicting all of the Middle East and parts of the world."
McCain and Graham were visiting Afghanistan as part of a U.S. delegation, which also includes Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), to several countries in the Middle East.
Graham, too, urged maintained troop levels in Afghanistan to keep from ISIS from expanding its influence there, saying fewer U.S. troops on the ground means "Afghanistan is going to become Iraq very quickly."
"The one thing I want people to know: you forget about Afghanistan, you do so at your own peril," he said. "This is where 9/11 originated. The president is about to make the most consequential decision of his presidency in a long time about troop levels--Mr. President, this time around accept sound military advice ... let the next president, whoever he or she may be, deal with Afghanistan."
He even suggested that removing troops from Afghanistan could lead to increased chances of a terrorist attack here in the U.S.
"What we're doing in Syria is buying time, President Obama is passing this on to the next president, and I hope to god we don't get hit in the United States from an attack planned in Syria like you saw in Turkey," he said, referring to the deadly attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport last week. "And I'm afraid that's going to happen if we don't speed up the demise of ISIL."