Less than one week after the United States completed its full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Sen. Lindsey Graham said the US will “have to” re-enter the war-torn country in an interview with BBC that aired worldwide on Monday.
“Whether you like Trump or not, whether you believe it’s Trump’s fault or Biden’s fault, here’s where we’re at as the world: The Taliban are not reformed, they’re not new,” said Graham (R-SC). “They have a view of the world out of sync with modern times. They’re going to impose a lifestyle on the Afghan people that I think is going to make us all sick to our stomach.
“But most importantly, they’re going to give safe haven to Al Qaeda who has ambitions to drive us out of the Mid East writ large and attack us because of our way of life. We will be going back into Afghanistan, as we went back into Iraq and Syria.”
BBC Host Stephen Sackur pushed Graham for clarification, asking if he “seriously” thought the US would re-enter the country after such a chaotic withdrawal.
“We’ll have to,” Graham said. “We’ll have to. Because the threat will be so large. It will be a cauldron for radical Islamic behavior.”
Graham’s comments come less than a week after the US completed its troop withdrawal and initial evacuation efforts of American citizens and Afghan allies in the country.
The Biden administration has faced bipartisan backlash for the evacuation efforts, particularly for being unable to evacuate all Americans from the war-torn country.
Immediately following the withdrawal, the Pentagon said several hundred Americans remained. Meanwhile on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the number of US passport holders stuck in Taliban-controlled territory is “likely closer to 100, perhaps considerably closer to 100.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that number on Thursday, affirming the State Department is “working in close coordination with them to determine how they can leave the country [or] if they’ve left the country.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday told reporters that the US is in constant contact with those Americans who “may still wish to leave,” and case management teams have been assigned to each remaining American citizen.
Since then, an organizer for chartered flights to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from the Mazar-i-Sharif airport accused the US State Department of holding up the planes — saying “blood will be on the White House’s hands” if any are injured or killed by the Taliban. Nineteen Americans are expected to board the flights, which have not been granted approval to land in Qatar due to concerns about passenger lists.
On Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) claimed the Taliban is holding six airplanes “hostage” at an airport.
Following the reports, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) slammed the Biden administration on Twitter for the delay in evacuating Americans.
“My staff & I have worked night & day to secure the safe passage of two planes waiting in Mazar-e Sharif to take American citizens, at-risk Afghan allies, & their families to safety,” he wrote, adding in another tweet that “I haven’t yet spoken publicly about these efforts because we worried that heightened attention would only escalate tensions & put these people at even greater risk of being targeted.”
“I have been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay & inaction. There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies.”
“I expect the White House & State Department to do everything in their power—absolutely everything—to make this happen. These are Americans citizens & Afghans who risked everything for our country. We cannot leave them behind,” he added.
As the Biden administration grapples with the continued evacuation efforts and growing criticism, Blinken arrived in Qatar on Monday to express gratitude for its help in the withdrawal.
The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.