Sens. Graham and McCain, in Afghanistan, Urge Obama: 'Please Do Not Cut These Troop Levels in Half'

Susan Jones | July 5, 2016 | 6:33am EDT
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Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) say it would be a mistake to halve the U.S. troop level in Afghanistan at a time when the Taliban and other Islamic jihadists are resurgent. (AP File Photo)

( - President Obama made a big mistake in 2011 when he pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq, and he should not make a similar mistake in Afghanistan, Republica Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) said on Sunday.

"If you forget about Afghanistan, you do so at your own peril," Graham told CBS's "Meet the Press," shortly after he and McCain arrived in that war-torn country.

"This is where 9/11 originated. The president's about to make the most consequential decision of his presidency in a long time about troop levels. Mr. President, this time around, accept sound military advice. Leave the 9,800 [troops], make it condition-based, and let the next president, whoever he or she may be, deal with Afghanistan.

"Please do not cut these troop levels in half. If you do, Afghanistan's going to become Iraq very quickly," Graham said.

McCain said if Obama does cut U.S. troop levels, as he has long planned to do, the Taliban and other terrorists, including ISIS, will "take over," and "then there will be further attacks on the United States of America."

"We cannot afford to consign Afghanistan to that status again," McCain said.

Graham said the Islamic State "is actually growing in capability," at a time when the U.S. has no strategy to destroy it.

"The next president will have to deal with that," Graham said. "What we're doing in Syria is buying time. President Obama's passing this on to the next president. And I hope to God we don't get hit in the United States from an attack planned in Syria, like you saw in Turkey. And I'm afraid that's going to happen if we don't speed up the demise of ISIL."

Graham complained that there is no strategy to replace Bashir al-Assad in Syria. "And if Assad stays in power in Syria, the war in Syria never ends and you can't stabilize Iraq."

"What we need to do is go to Raqqa and kill them," McCain said. "And you can do that with 10,000 of a hundred thousand person contingent, using American capabilities, go take them out of Raqqa where they are now basing most of these -- or at least some of these attacks, and then get into the long, ideological struggle to defeat this metastasizing evil that is afflicting all of the Middle East and parts of the world."

President Obama's time-table calls for the current troop level of 9,800 to be cut to 5,500 by the end of 2016. But according to the Military Times, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told NATO allies last month that the U.S. will reconsider those withdrawal plans.

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