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McCain predicts Iraq war over by 2013

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  • NEW: Sen. Clinton says McCain offering "empty promises on Iraq"
  • Sen. McCain says Iraq war will be "won," most of U.S. troops will return home
  • Osama bin Laden will be killed or captured by end of first term, McCain expects
  • The U.S. will be well on its way to independence from foreign oil, McCain predicts
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain envisions that by 2013, the Iraq war will be won, but the threat from the Taliban in Afghanistan won't be eliminated, even though Osama bin Laden will have been captured or killed.

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Sen. John McCain envisions his first-term achievements during a speech in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee made both statements in a speech in which he envisions the state of affairs at the end of his first term if he is elected president.

"What I want to do today is take a little time to describe what I would hope to have achieved at the end of my first term as president. I cannot guarantee I will have achieved these things," McCain said in Columbus, Ohio.

McCain's speech was unusual -- and somewhat risky -- in that it laid out benchmarks on which he could be judged.

"It certainly was an ambitious speech," said Bill Schneider, a CNN senior political analyst, noting that many of the things McCain mentioned will be "very tough things for a president to accomplish."

"But perhaps the key point that he made was the tone and tenor of his presidency when he said near the end of his speech, 'If I'm elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end. The era of problem solving will begin,' " Schneider said.

"What's interesting about that is that precisely echoes what Barack Obama is talking about in his campaign," Schneider said, referring to the Democratic presidential candidate.

The Arizona senator said he believes that the United States will have a smaller military presence in Iraq that will not play a direct combat role, and he predicts that al Qaeda in Iraq will be defeated. Video Watch McCain say most troops will be home from Iraq by 2013 »

"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and -women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom.

"The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension," McCain said.

The violence in Iraq will persist, the candidate believes, but it will be "spasmodic and much reduced." But civil war will be prevented, armed militias will be disbanded, security forces will become "professional and competent," and the government will be able to impose "its authority in every province of Iraq" and properly defend its borders.

Speaking with reporters after his address, McCain insisted that "we are winning and we will win" in Iraq but said he's not assigning a date for success.

"It could be next month; it could be next year. It could three years from now. It could be, but I'm confident that we will have victory in Iraq, but I'm certainly not putting a date on it. "

McCain said victory means "our troops come home with honor and we do maintain a security relationship ... if viewed necessary by both governments."

He said withdrawing troops would basically be setting "a date for surrender."

Responding to the speech, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton said in a statement that McCain had offered "the same Bush policies that have weakened our military, our national security, and our standing in the world. Our country cannot afford more empty promises on Iraq."

McCain said he also believes that the "threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan will be greatly reduced but not eliminated" and that U.S. and NATO forces will remain in the country "to help finish the job, and continue operations against the remnants of al Qaeda."

If he is elected, he said, he would hope that Pakistan will work with the United States in deploying counter-insurgency tactics in the al Qaeda-laden tribal regions.

McCain envisions that Osama bin Laden and his chief lieutenants, would be captured or killed.

"There is no longer any place in the world al Qaeda can consider a safe haven," McCain said.

He also believes that in 2013, there still will not have been a "major terrorist attack in the United States since September 11, 2001."

Other milestones McCain hopes to see at the end of what would be his first term are:

  • Witnessing Russia and China cooperating in "pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, and North Korea to discontinue its own."
  • Significantly increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps, which will be "better equipped and trained to defend us."
  • The application of "stiff diplomatic and economic pressure" by the United States -- acting in concert with a newly formed League of Democracies -- to cause Sudan to agree to a multinational peacekeeping force, with NATO countries providing logistical and air support, to stop the genocide in Darfur.
  • Several years of robust economic growth.
  • Taxpayers filing under a flat tax.
  • The world food crisis ending, low inflation and a "much-improved" quality of life "not only in our country but in some of the most impoverished countries around the world."
  • More accessible health care for Americans and an easing of pressure on Medicare because of lower health care costs.
  • A United States well on its way to "independence from foreign sources of oil."
  • A Social Security system that is solvent, does not reduce benefits for those nearing retirement and includes individual retirement accounts
  • The confirmation of "scores of judges" to the federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • A secure southern border for the United States after "tremendous improvements to border security infrastructure and increases in the border patrol, and vigorous prosecution of companies that employ illegal aliens."
  • McCain also made veiled criticism of President Bush when he said, "I will exercise my veto if I believe legislation passed by Congress is not in the nation's best interests, but I will not subvert the purpose of legislation I have signed by making statements that indicate I will enforce only the parts of it I like."

    Bush has made a practice of issuing signing statements that outline portions of legislation he will not enforce or abide by because he felt that they infringed on his executive powers.

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    McCain pledged to work with members of either party to make the country safer and more prosperous.

    "And I won't care who gets the credit," he said.

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