Sen. John McCain warns that Sen. Barack Obama's troop withdrawal plan could reverse progress in Iraq, forcing Americans to return to Iraq to fight a wider war.
"We have succeeded but it's still fragile. Senator Obama's strategy could easily reverse all the hard-fought gains we made," McCain told ABC News' David Wright on Wednesday in an interview that will air in part on "World News with Charles Gibson."
"If we do what Senator Obama wants us to do, we will risk having to come back and risk a wider war and defeat in the first major war since 9/11," McCain said. "And that could be, have, is fraught with consequences of the United States of America's security."
Watch David Wright's interview with Sen. John McCain tonight on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson at 6:30ET.
McCain's comments come a day after the Republican presumptive nominee unveiled new, harsh language in his attacks on his Democratic rival for not supporting President Bush's 2007 troop "surge" policy in Iraq -- a policy advocated by McCain. The policy is credited in part with helping to reduce violence in Iraq in the last year.
"I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign," McCain told a crowd of 400 on Tuesday in Rochester, N.H. McCain repeated the line Wednesday at a campaign event in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Asked today whether he believes Obama would actually prefer losing in Iraq so that he could win the White House, McCain pointed to Obama's comments made to ABC News' Terry Moran Monday, in which he acknowledged that the surge succeeded in providing greater security, but that he stands by his original opposition to it.
"I cannot believe that any objective observer can conclude that the surge did not work and is not succeeding," McCain told Wright. "It has succeeded and it is and we are winning this war and we will come home with victory and with honor."
"We are responsible for our records. I was right. Senator Obama was wrong. So therefore, I think I have more credibility about what the future should be as opposed to Senator Obama, who if he had had his way, we would very likely be involved in a wider war today if we had done what he wanted to do," McCain told Wright.
McCain: 'I Was Right' on Troop Surge
The Arizona senator has been eager to take credit for pushing the Bush administration to adopt a new troop surge plan, a position that wasn't popular with the American public at the time.
He is well ahead of Obama when it comes to voters' perception of who would be a stronger commander in chief, according to the latest ABC News poll.
By a wide margin of 63 to 26 percent, Americans pick McCain as more knowledgeable on world affairs, rate him much more highly in terms of readiness for the world stage and military leadership alike, and put him ahead of Obama by 50 to 41 percent in trust to handle "an unexpected major crisis," according to the latest ABC News poll.
McCain told Wright the reduced level of insurgent attacks in Iraq would not have happened had the U.S. followed Obama's insistence that the U.S. withdraw troops.
"I think that it's very clear that Senator Obama has refused to recognize that the strategy in Iraq called the surge has succeeded and that America has succeeded in Iraq and will come home with victory and with honor," McCain said. "If he'd have had his way they'd have been out last month."
McCain also stood by his comments to CBS's Katie Couric that the surge began the "Anbar awakening" -- a statement called into question by bloggers and then called wrong by the Obama campaign.
The media was briefed on the Anbar awakening on Sept. 29, 2006, by then commander, now Gen. Sean McFarland months before the surge was announced by President Bush in January 2007.
Standing by those comments Wednesday, McCain argued that parts of what is now known as the troop surge strategy had been deployed before the President announced the plan to the American public.
"Actually the surge is a strategy, and Col. McFarlane who I briefed with in 2006 had already started deploying that strategy, gone into Ramadi, clearing and holding," he said. "It's more than a number of troops. It's a strategy. Col. MacFarlane was deploying that strategy and that strategy was having some limited success. But it needed some additional troops which were then made available as a result of increasing the number of troops, which is a part of the surge."
McCain added, "Anybody who knows anything about Iraq, about the situation knows that."
The presumptive Republican nominee argued that Obama's plan setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq is dangerous.
"General Petraeus has been in charge of this incredible, incredible reversal of fortunes in Iraq has said it would be a dangerous course," McCain told Wright. "The future of young Americans who are at stake here. Because if we do what he wants to do, which is withdraw -- and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a certain date has said that it's very dangerous, and even in Senator Obama's own admission we could have to go back -- then that's dangerous for the future of America. And he should know better if he wants to be commander in chief, and certainly behave differently as far as this, our presence and our strategy in Iraq."
McCain argued Iraq is not ready for American troops to leave.
"We'll reach an agreement with the Iraqis. They're interested in their national security. But it'll be based on conditions on the ground," he said.
"Senator Obama still wants to set a date for withdrawal, and he still, regardless of conditions on the ground, which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said is very dangerous."