Sen. Graham: ‘13 Years after 9/11, There Are More Safe Havens’ for Terrorists

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2014 | 12:00 PM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) (AP File Photo)

( – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks, there are more safe havens for terrorists.

“I think the big fear I have about what we're doing in Afghanistan is that we have great capability now. We can watch a part of the world that is a safe haven for terrorists. Thirteen years after 9/11, there are more safe havens. There are more terrorist groups with more weapons and more capabilities than before 9/11, and we're having less capability, less presence,” said Graham.

President Barack Obama plans to withdraw all but 9,800 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, followed by a complete withdrawal by the end of 2016.

“If we get down to 1,000 troops by 2017, and dismantle our eyes and ears in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will haunt us far worse than Iraq. The counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan is a front-line defense against -- for the homeland, and it is being destroyed by this idea of leaving completely in 2017,” Graham said.

Graham called on the president to reverse course and keep U.S. “counterterrorism capabilities” in Afghanistan “to protect us here at home.”

“We're not advocating combat troops,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “We're advocating leaving sustaining capability to give them the capabilities that they don't have right now.”

“What we're doing on the counterterrorism side, which protects the homeland from -- al Qaeda is not decimated. The groups operating in Pakistan and now Afghanistan are lethal. They're growing. We're about to shut down our ability to detect what they're up to and hit them before they hit us. This literally is insane, given the way the world is falling apart,” Graham said.’

McCain said Obama is going to make the same mistake in Afghanistan that he did in Iraq unless he reverses his decision to pull troops out of the region.

He said the Iraqis were ready to sign a Status of Forces agreement to put their troops under U.S. legal control, but the Obama administration did not want to stay.

“And the president is going to make the same mistake in Afghanistan, unless he reverses that decision that he made. You're going to see the same result in Afghanistan. We just came back from there. They feel abandoned,” McCain said.