From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy and NBC's Mark Murray
In calling for an additional three brigades to supplement troop levels in Afghanistan today, McCain said that such an increase was made possible due to the success of the recent troop surge in Iraq.
"Thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them," McCain said, implying that additional troops could either be shifted directly from Iraq or from other regions due to troops coming home from Iraq.
Yet while speaking to reporters on his bus after this morning's town hall, McCain would not commit to whether those additional brigades would definitely be American ones. When asked if the three brigades would come from the United States or NATO, McCain said: "We need to work that out. We need to have greater participation on the part of our NATO allies, as I said in my opening remarks today and we need a lot more help."
Later, McCain added that he planned to press the members of NATO for "increased materiel" and "assistance in the form of personnel," as well as assistance centralizing the military command structure in the region and performing "civil military kind of work" that has worked in Iraq. He then reiterated that additional combat troops are just another area where NATO could help.
"There are many areas where our NATO allies can help us," McCain said. "That's one of them."
On a conference call today, in response to a question on where the troops to Afghanistan would come from, McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann said, according to a transcript of the call: "The most immediate way to make those troops available is to ask our NATO allies to step up to the plate and send more troops. When Sen. McCain is sworn in as president, if he wins this election, it will be different rotational schedule and additional brigades will be available. We have 53 brigades or brigade equivalents in the Army and Marine Corps right now. Eighteen are deployed. Sen. McCain is looking for an additional three, some of which may come from NATO, some could be the US."
When First Read asked a senior McCain official what would happen if NATO allies decided not to contribute to an Afghanistan surge, the official replied that McCain "preferred to get as many as possible from NATO allies." But if US commanders needed three brigades, and the only troops he could send were American ones, then he'd send three American brigades, the officials said.