Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Axios in a report released Monday that he advised President Donald Trump against withdrawing all military troops from Afghanistan by the 2020 election.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported that Sen. Graham told President Trump that withdrawing troops and ending the decades-long war in Afghanistan would be a major mistake.
“When it comes to the election of 2020,” Sen. Graham said, “I think it would be very easy for the president to defend leaving a counterterrorism force that was recommended by our military and intelligence community, to protect the homeland after the debacle in Iraq.”
Graham’s advice to the president arises as the United States has reportedly started preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan in exchange for concessions from the Taliban.
The South Carolina senator said it would be more challenging to attack 2020 Democrat frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden for reducing troops in Iraq if Trump were to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
Sen. Graham continued:
“It would be hard, in my view, and a high-risk strategy, to reject such advice for political reasons,” Graham added. “As to debating Joe Biden, I think it would be easy for President Trump to remind people that: Aren’t you the guy, Biden, who said it was OK to leave Iraq, that led to the rise of ISIS?”
“If he does the same thing that Obama-Biden did, then he’s lost that difference, and he owns this. It’s a high-risk strategy,” Graham said.
Swan reported that President Trump does not always take Graham’s advice; however, he always takes it into consideration.
Trump has reportedly told advisers that withdrawing troops from Afghanistan serves as one of his most important promises to the American people during the 2016 presidential election. The president has also reportedly grown impatient and wants a quick, clear path forward toward ending America’s “endless wars.”
However, some advisers have reportedly sought to appeal to Trump’s contempt for former President Barack Obama as a tactic to keep the country in Afghanistan.
“Don’t be like Obama in Iraq. Don’t leave a vacuum that Islamic terrorists will exploit,” one adviser told the president.
Graham’s advice contrasts with another outside foreign policy adviser, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul has advocated for Trump’s America First foreign policy vision, where America focuses on rebuilding the U.S. and intervening less abroad. Sen. Paul has even asked to negotiate with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Paul and Trump even reportedly agreed that America should end the country’s decades-long involvement in the Middle East:
Proud that @realDonaldTrump and I argued with you against endless wars! @POTUS made it clear to all of us at the table, we are getting out of the Middle East quagmire. We’ve been there too long. Time to bring our troops home. https://t.co/trO0aIHbzk
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 15, 2019