Speaking before a packed crowd at the American Enterprise Institute, the Republican from Arizona said that if the U.S. did not make a "serious change" in its strategy and and how it deploys resources in Afghanistan, the result eventually would be failure.
McCain said he believes the war can be won, but he called for a return to strategies predating 2005 that emphasized counterinsurgency and the protection of the Afghanistan population, over a strategy that is "balkanized and dysfunctional."
"If we change our policies, the situation on the ground will change too," McCain said."When you aren't winning in this kind of war, you are losing. And, in Afghanistan today, we are not winning. Let us not shy from the truth, but let us not be paralyzed by it either."
But McCain warned that "the scale of resources required to prevail will be enormous and the timetable will be measured in years, not months."
McCain said that it was the responsibility of the president and Congress to prepare the American people for the difficult road ahead in Afghanistan, including an increase in American casualties.
"Things are going to get worse in Afghanistan before they get better," he said, adding that he believes an increase in casualties will occur as troops move into southern Afghanistan which is controlled by a resurgent Taliban.
"So I think it's very important that the president and the members of Congress and other people in leadership, and respective positions, inform the American people that its going to be long hard and tough."
McCain also advocated doubling the size of the army in Afghanistan, empowering the new Pakistani government to confront radical extremism in that front increasing non-military aide to Afghanistan. McCain also said he supported Obama's increase in troops but made it clear that he did not think it could be categorized as a "surge."