KABUL, Afghanistan — Sen. John McCain said Sunday that the situation in Afghanistan will get more difficult before it gets easier — "just like the surge in Iraq was" — as the United States prepares to pour thousands more troops into the country, including on the doorsteps of Kabul.
McCain, who is to report back to President-elect Obama, visited the southern province of Helmand, where he said NATO forces are at a stalemate with insurgents. Though Helmand has been the responsibility of British forces for years, McCain said the United States will focus more on the region — the heartland of the Taliban movement and a center of opium poppy production.
"We're going to have additional troops and additional help," McCain said of the country's south.
The trip comes at a time of increasing violence in Afghanistan, where a record 32,000 U.S. troops are now stationed, with requests for 20,000 more from American commanders.
McCain said that it was clear there has been progress in eastern Afghanistan, the region where most U.S. forces are stationed, but that Afghanistan's south deserves more attention.
"And I want to emphasize again, I think it's going to get harder before it gets easier, just like the surge in Iraq was," McCain said.
Obama asked McCain to report back to him on what he learns on the visit, said Sen. Joe Lieberman, who accompanied McCain on the multiday trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iraq.