Graham pushes Trump to keep military presence in Afghanistan

As President Donald Trump prepared to receive a briefing on peace negotiations with the Taliban on Friday afternoon, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump ally and frequent voice in the President’s ear, urged Trump to maintain an American military presence in Afghanistan.

“American service members are not acting as policemen in Afghanistan,” Graham wrote in a statement Friday. “They are the front-line of defense for America against the reemergence of radical Islamist groups who wish to attack the American homeland.”

“Any peace agreement which denies the US a robust counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan is not a peace deal. Instead, it is paving the way for another attack on the American homeland and attacks against American interests around the world,” the senator added. He urged Trump to “make sound and sustainable decisions” on the issue.

“A bad agreement puts the radical Islamist movement all over the world on steroids,” Graham said.

Trump will meet with top national security advisers at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort to discuss the matter on Friday. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford are all expected to attend the meeting.

Negotiators have worked toward a potential agreement with the Taliban for months — the plan, which is not completely finalized, is expected to involve counterterrorism commitments on the part of the Taliban, a drawback of thousands of US troops, as well as a ceasefire between the US and the Taliban.

Earlier this month, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 14 people and wounded 145 in Kabul. The Taliban has carried out a number of other deadly attacks over the past months, even as peace negotiations with the US continued. The nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan is America’s longest-running conflict.

Trump has repeatedly advocated for bringing US troops back from Afghanistan, butting heads with hawkish GOP lawmakers like the senior senator from South Carolina. Graham, a formerly outspoken critic of the President, has a strong relationship with him currently and frequently offers foreign policy advice. In recent days, the senator has encouraged Trump to take a firmer stance on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.