ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports:
Sen. Joe Manchin’s calls on the Senate floor this afternoon for a “significant reduction” of troops in Afghanistan drew a sharp rebuke and slapdown today from Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, who said the freshman senator’s statements “characterize the isolationist withdrawal, lack of knowledge of history attitude that seems to be on the rise of America.”
“I believe it is time for President Obama to begin a substantial and responsible reduction in our military presence in Afghanistan,” Manchin said on the Senate floor this afternoon. “I believe it is time for us to rebuild America, not Afghanistan.”
Manchin argues that the fiscal challenges faced at home make it “impossible to defend” the mission in Afghanistan by “building a country even at the expense of our own.” Manchin has sent a letter to Obama calling for “significant reduction” to end the scope of the mission in Afghanistan “well before 2014.”
“I simply ask them, 'Is 10 years not long enough?'” Manchin said. “I ask all of them to explain to the American people the sanity of spending $485 billion more on top of the $443 billion that we have spend to build Afghanistan over the next decade at the very same time our nation drowns in a sea of debt.”
McCain, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, took to the floor immediately after and heatedly responded to the West Virginia’s senator’s comments, casting them as naïve and off base.
“I'm pleased that the senator from West Virginia went to Afghanistan once,” McCain quipped, “I would suggest that he consult with the people who know best that since 2009 when the surge began we have had success on the ground in Afghanistan and we are succeeding.”
Manchin then took the floor again and corrected McCain: he had actually been to Afghanistan twice, not once.
“I’ve been there twice,” Manchin replied. “I was there as a governor in 2006 in Afghanistan, representing the great national guard of west Virginia back in 2010. I did not see an improvement. I see deterioration. I did not see a country that had an infrastructure. I saw corrupt leadership. With that, I know that the senator has had much more experience than that can only speak from a sense of common sense and speaking to the people of West Virginia and what they feel.”