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McCain Tries to Clarify Surge Comments

From CBS News' John Bentley:

(BETHLEHEM, PA.) – After being criticized for comments he made about the Anbar awakening in Iraq, McCain tried to clarify the issue today, saying the strategy behind the surge was already in place when the uprising occurred.

"This counter-insurgency was initiated to some degree by Col. McFarland in Anbar province, relatively on his own. And I visited with him in December of 2006. He had already initiated that strategy in Ramadi by going in and clearing and holding in certain places," McCain said. "Later on, there were additional troops, and General Petraeus said that the surge would not have worked, and the Anbar awakening would not have taken place, successfully, if they hadn't had an increase in the number of troops."

During an exclusive interview yesterday with CBS News, Katie Couric asked McCain to respond to Barack Obama's assertion that the Sunni awakening would have improved security even without the surge.

"I don't know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened," McCain responded. "Col. McFarland was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history."

Critics have said that since the surge troops weren't announced until early 2007, crediting the surge for the uprising in the summer and fall of 2006 shows a misunderstanding of the Iraq war's history. McCain argues that even if the troops hadn't arrived, the tactics had been implemented. "Because of my visits to Iraq, I was briefed by Col. McFarland in December of 2006 where he outlined what was succeeding there as counter-insurgency strategy, which we all know of now as the surge," McCain said today.

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