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Graham warns Trump not to pull all US troops from Afghanistan

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senator Lindsey Graham speaks as US Attorney General William Barr prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2019. (AFP photo)

US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has warned President Donald Trump not to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan, arguing that a large-scale withdrawal from the war-torn country could pose a grave threat to US national security.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation" on Sunday, the senator from the South Carolina said the US troop level should not go below 8,600.

“Mr. President, if you don't have a counter-terrorism force left behind, even if you've got a deal with the Taliban — which I doubt, but you might — they don't have the capability or will to protect the American homeland,” Graham said.

"I am concerned that the president, in his desire to get out, is going to make the same mistake that President Obama did in Iraq," he added.

Asked by CBS host Margaret Brennan how many US troops should remain in Afghanistan, Graham said: “The number is gonna be around 8,600. To go below that I think would be really risky.”

Graham claimed that the US troops in Afghanistan are an "insurance policy against another 9/11," alleging that the September 11, 2001 terror attacks took place because the US was not focused on Afghanistan.

The US currently has about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Trump has repeatedly advocated for bringing US troops back from Afghanistan, putting him at odds with hawkish Republican lawmakers like Graham.

US officials have held several rounds of direct negotiations with the Taliban to pull out American forces in exchange for concessions. The militant group says it does not recognize the government in Kabul.

The negotiations in the Qatari capital take place almost 18 years after the US military invaded Afghanistan to overthrow a ruling Taliban regime. 

American forces have since remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump.

Both Trump and the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have said they would bring the troops home, but Graham said Sunday, "They're all wrong."

Graham said he is "concerned" that Trump is going to "make the same mistake that President Obama did in Iraq" by pulling out the troops.

"You may get a peace deal with the Taliban, but you'll never get a peace deal with al Qaeda or ISIS (Daesh)," Graham said.

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