August 1st, 2010
09:32 AM ET
8 years ago

Graham fears left, right in 'unholy alliance' on Afghanistan

About President Obama and Afghanistan, Sen. Graham told CNN, 'He's got a political problem. But we've got a national security problem.'

About President Obama and Afghanistan, Sen. Graham told CNN, 'He's got a political problem. But we've got a national security problem.'

Washington (CNN) - A prominent Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is praising President Barack Obama's approach to fighting terrorism in Pakistan.

However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, is also worried that conservatives and liberals could join forces to undermine Obama's efforts in Afghanistan.

Obama has set July 2011 as the target date to begin to draw down the additional troops he's surged into Afghanistan. But, in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Graham predicted that conditions may not allow the troops to begin to come home by that date.

"[G]enerally speaking, this time next summer, we're still going to be engaged in one hell of a fight," Graham said. "We're going to need every troop we have today, I think, still in Afghanistan next year."

According to Graham, it will be clear by the end of this year where things stand in Afghanistan.

"If, by December, we're not showing some progress, we're in trouble," he said. "And the question is: what is progress? Without some benchmarks and measurements, it's going to be hard to sell to the American people a continued involvement in Afghanistan."

Asked about the growing tide of sentiment against the Afghanistan war, particularly among Obama's base of supporters and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, Graham said he is worried about conservative and liberal forces joining together to frustrate Obama's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

"You know what I worry most about: an unholy alliance between the right and the left," Graham said. "That there are some Republicans who are not going to take a, you know, do-or-die attitude for Obama's war. There are some Republicans that want to make this Obama's war. . . There will be some Republicans saying you can't win because of the July 2011 withdrawal date, he's made it impossible for us to win, so why should we throw good money after bad?"

Graham added that liberals could also refuse to back the president's plans in Afghanistan.

"You've got people on the left who are mad with the president because he is doing exactly what [former President George W.] Bush did and we're in a war we can't win," Graham said, adding: "My concern is that, for different reasons, they join forces and we lose the ability to hold this thing together."

But, Graham said, he thinks the president understands the consequences of losing in Afghanistan.

"He's got a political problem. But we've got a national security problem," the Republican senator said.

Graham also said that the situations in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are linked when it comes to national security.

"How do you win in Pakistan if you lose in Afghanistan?" Graham said. "And I asked the president that. How can we be successful in Pakistan, protect that regime from extremists, if all goes to hell in Afghanistan?"

While Graham expressed concern about the short and long-term situations in Afghanistan, he offered praise for what Obama is doing across the border in Pakistan.

"Things generally are the best they've been with Pakistan in a long time," Graham said. "And this is one area where President Obama doesn't get enough credit. His team, in my view, have brought out the Pakistanis into the fight better than anybody in recent memory. They're cooperating with us more."

Graham added: "So I would say that the Obama administration has done a very good job at taking the fight to the enemy in Pakistan and trying to bolster the Pakistanis' capability to take the fight to the enemy."

In addition to sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Graham is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Graham has served active duty in the military as an Air Force lawyer and continues to serve in the Air Force Reserves. He holds the rank of colonel and is assigned as an instructor at the Air Force Judge Advocate General School. Graham said he will be going to Afghanistan to do his reserve duty during the upcoming Senate recess in August.

Filed under: Afghanistan • issues • Lindsey Graham • Pakistan • Popular Posts • State of the Union
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    "Generally speaking, this time next summer, we're still going to be engaged in one hell of a fight," Graham said.

    Uh, what are we supposed to be achieving with this "fight," Senator? What do we, the US, get out of it? I've seen not a single justification for waging this war that makes the slightest bit of sense.

    August 1, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Surafel

    You are the true American who doesn't stick with daily politics. I am always like you and continue to like you, Sir.

    August 1, 2010 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  3. jpmichigan

    In the 1980's with the Carter administration, we help the Taliban with money, weapons and training to fight the Russians. When they then need more support to rebuild their country we pulled out leaving them high and dry. They hate Americans for that reason. There will always be fighting going on over there. Look at Iraq they still fight even though most Troops are gone. Afghanistan is another Vietnam, we need to get out now before more of our precious troops are lost!

    August 1, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. ggibson

    The division of America is "holy"... the joining of forces between the left and right instead of the constant nonsense partisan bickering is "unholy". Why are we letting these people stay in Washington?

    Why doesn't the left and right join together this November and kick every one of them out.. not in theory... for real. Everyone vote FOR the challengers and everyone vote AGAINST the incumbents... in both parties. Don't worry about Democrats vs. Republicans. Just new guys vs. old guys.

    Then REAL change will occur.. not just because of the new people... but a message would be sent to the future. The American people CAN and WILL fire you if you act like this... YOUR FIRED!

    August 1, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. Judy

    Don't worry Lindsay. We Liberals won't touch anything with a ten foot pole that your you right wing conservative extremists want . We are looking for a new home and it isn't the republican party or the teabaggers! Good luck come November without us! boy, are you all in for a surprise.

    August 1, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  6. clwyd

    Lindsay! What a worthless war and a worthless piece of right wing trash you are!

    August 1, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Marissa

    I cry for every soldier that dies in this waste of a war. We dont have the hearts of the Afghan people as JP michigan succinctly noted above. Billions of dollars and the wounded that dont make the daily news. I am so disgusted about this war. We need to pull out. All the country is good for is Heroin . Lets spend our money on intelligence..... Stealth operations where we assinate AL Queda . But not this.

    August 1, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. johnrj08

    The logic used to support staying in Afghanistan is becoming less and less ... logical. We are never going to convert every village in that country to bastions of democracy. And, as long as there are villages that don't mind having the Taliban around, there will still be chaos in Afghanistan. We need to get out of that country and focus our efforts on building an intelligence apparatus that can identify Al Qaeda activity. Then we can go after that surgically. That's what we're good at. There are far too many dead American kids already.

    August 1, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. thor

    Why does anuone care what this man has to say?The news media seems to be infactuated with him as i constantly see him paraded before us on the talk circuit.We need to pull our troops out of Afghanistan now.Obama calls this the"good war"and wants to thump his chest like he's on a basketball court,but these are Americans dying for corrupt people including Karzai.

    August 1, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. No-sense makes nonsense

    Gosh darn, Lyndsey, if pretty much the only thing Conservatives and Republicans are willing to support Obama on is war the the US has a problem.

    By the way, once Conservatives and Republicans realize that BIG BUSINESS is blocking any recovery because you guys reduced Government down to the size of a postage stamp then you'll start telling Obama's government to start to control the out of control Transnationals.

    August 1, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  11. Voldude

    Graham is right, in that 90% of Republicans simply vote against Obama, regardless of the actual issue.

    Remember those huge "Country First" flag banners at the GOP Convention? Well, the GOP is all about "Party First" and to heck with the nation's best interests.

    August 1, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  12. Jim

    During Vietnam they lied to us and said the domino effect would make all asia communist and then the evil asian commies would come after us.
    Now they say if Afghanistan falls to extemist Muslims then Pakistan will fall next. Its hard to believe them when they use the same lies and manipulations as 40 years ago but .. if Pakistan Did become like Afghanistan they actually Can attack us with nukes 😦

    August 1, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. Simple Words

    Korea and Viet Nam were 'wars' (also called "police actions") that had no definable measure of "victory." Mostly they were fought to benefit the industries and individuals who realize short-term profits from war. Afghanistan and Iraq are wars which have no definable measure of "victory" (other than to capture Bin Ladin, which after 9 years is now essentially moot.) You cannot win a war in which "victory" cannot be defined...unless you are Haliburton.

    August 1, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  14. ray munholland

    it is silly to think that "conditions on the ground" (that really matter) will be any different than they have been in afghanistan for millenia. this is a tribal society, demarcated strongly by mountains, and conflicting alliances always subject to winds of change. what arose as a relatively reasonable, targeted response to sanctuaries wherein osama had established his base of operations has now morphed into an essential undertaking.

    this is a war of choice, and it is now time to exit this country (what obama's plan in my judgment seeks to do). one year will allow development of an alternative methodology to secure the nuclear arsenal in pakistan from serious threat–i suggest a strike force capability plan for if and when pakistan devolves into chaos. the goal for such plan would be to surgically remove or incapacitate these weapons if such chaos arises. this plan must have some regional support in order to be realistic.

    then hasta la vista, baby!!!

    August 1, 2010 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. Jess C

    Where was all this attitude 18 months ago? It's pretty clear at this stage of the game that if Obama had put a sudden end to the wars, both of them, he would have been seriously berated for being "unpatriotic" and pulling out before "mission accomplished". Of course, we all know how well that mission was accomplished years ago; guess that's why we're still there. Besides, wasn't it McCain who campaigned for staying in the wars? So how would things have been different except for the fact that psyco-nut would have been in the sidecar making serious decision way above her pea for a brain,

    August 1, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Sharon

    Obama's war??? Can't this guy count??? No memory??? Seems to me our troops were there before Obama became POTUS.

    August 1, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  17. Bob(Illinois)

    Something very rare: a Republican Senator who can think!

    And to those of you who don't think we have to "hang tough" in Afghanistan AND Pakistan: Do you want to run the risk of Pakistan being governed by the Taliban?

    August 1, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. vic

    Sen. Lindsey Graham knows many part of Afghan problem and his approaching also good. I am glad he is appreciating president Obama handling the war

    The problem in Afghan war is the geography India, Pakistan, Iran and Russia they have self interest in Afghanistan its huge problem. Bush administration didn’t consider it. Far right they don’t get it

    We can’t use blinders ( dollars) on Pakistan to focus on Taliban because its not working

    Russia and Iran they don’t like us they don’t like Taliban as long this war drag they will open Champagne bottle every day

    India doesn’t want Pakistan support government in Afghan .Pakistan doesn’t want Afghan government friendly with India

    Afghan and Pakistan governments using our tax payer’s money

    This our war Bomb Bomb destroy Al- Qaida talk to Taliban let them participate in political process bring our troops home

    August 1, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  19. scott

    Just another mess and unfinished war the Republicans started and abandoned. Now Democrats are stuck cleaning up another GOP Failure. The damage Republicans saddled the USA with will take decades to fix. They' (GOP) would do well to shut up while the adults clean up their failures.

    August 1, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. Proud member of Global Zero

    No one has ever "Won" in Afghanistan. What makes us think we can do it now. We do not have the money or the men and women to fight this war.

    What about the deficit? Who is paying for this? We need to invest in OUR country. China is leaving us in the dust!

    Wake up America. Before it is too late.

    August 1, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. Don

    There was a time not long ago historically speaking, when a ragtag group of Zeolots pushed back the greatest army in the world and formed a new nation in a backwater of the world. It is hard to beat down determined people in their own backyard. The time is the late 1770's; the place, the coast of the new world. You know the rest of the story.

    August 1, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    Those of you, who have seen my blogs in numerous places throughout CNN know that I am extremely prejudiced AGAINST the GOP and The Tea Party and appear to be willing to go against the right-wing-neo-conservatives by taking them on 'head-on', by blasting their public comments and their so called ideologies. Sen. Lindsey Graham, however has, by virtue of this article and others, demonstrated to me that there still are REASONABLE Republicans within the halls of Congress and yes I do have a few others in mind, abet not very many. Conditionally, and yes I say CONDITIONALLY, I support and see 'substance' in what Sen. Lindsey Gramham has to say. As a rational-realist-centrist-ordinary American Citizen believe that the GOP needs to follow more of his lead. May I note here that I could rewrite the above article and make it applicable to issues of economy, health care, taxes and many other important problems we face today by changing a few words here and a few words there. Hopefully, there are countless others who feel the same as I.

    August 1, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  23. Ray E. (Georgia)

    It is the 64 dollar question. Do we stay or eventually leave. We still have bases in Japan and probably Germany. The war is mostly forgotten but the peace is now pretty secure. One wonders what to do. You would think those over there would want peace but there seems to be no end to it. We could drop the "Bomb" and really get there attention and finally have peace. And if we leave will there be peace? Questions, questions, questions.

    August 1, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  24. ggibson

    Bob(Illinois) – why are you not still worried about the commies taking over all of the world if we let Vietnam fall?!?!?

    Don't you think we need to get our military back over there to Vietnam before this happens to the USA?

    Pakistan should have gotten the WWII treatment right after 911. If the Taliban by some stroke of unbelievable luck gets control of Pakistan then we would have justification to give them the WWII treatment they should have gotten in the first place. Remember there were people in power in Pakistan that helped the 911 terrorists.

    August 1, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. ruty

    Thr Afghan government is so corrupt that we will never win this war.What makes the US think we can? The Afghans are using the US to solve their problems. Another American life is not worth losing for those corrupt people. Get the HELL out NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 1, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
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