Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday that the Obama administration’s plan to replace troops in Iraq with private security contractors — what the South Carolina Republican referred to as a “mini State Department army” — puts hard-won American progress in that country at risk.
“The State Department has come to Congress and said, ‘We’re going to need over 50 mine-resistant vehicles. We need a fleet of helicopters and thousands of private security guards. I think that is a losing formula,” he said in an appearance Sunday on CBS‘ “Face the Nation.”
The president has vowed to withdraw most of the estimated 50,000 American troops remaining in Iraq by the end of this year, but Mr. Graham said he would like to see a more phased-in approach, starting with a drop to 10,000 to 15,000 troops in 2012.
Otherwise, he said, the situation could deteriorate and “Iraq could go to hell.”
Mr. Graham was one of a number of Republicans who took to the airwaves Sunday to question the Obama administration’s handling of national security issues across the Middle East.
Criticizing Mr. Obama for publicly restricting the U.S. intervention to air assaults only, the freshman senator said, “I don’t think you go into a military engagement saying what you will not do.”
“Look, the stated goal of this engagement is to protect civilians and prevent genocide,” he said. “As long as Gadhafi is in power, you can’t protect civilians or prevent genocide.”
“I think if you have a stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi still in power when you have this split country where he still possesses stockpiles of some pretty awful stuff, I think you have to worry that he is a terrorist threat,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We ought to stand with the president on making this a positive outcome.”
“We need to know who they are,” he said. “We know what they’re against, the rebels. We know they’re against Moammar Gadhafi remaining in power, but we don’t know what they’re for.”
“I think it’s time to go directly after Gadhafi,” he said. “But this strategy that President Obama has come up with, I think, is not going to defeat a determined enemy.”
The U.S. should help the rebels take the fight to Tripoli, where Col. Moammar Gadhafi and his supporters are thought to be hiding out, Mr. Graham said. He also wants American air power to play a bigger role.
“To take the best Air Force in the world and park it during this fight is outrageous,” he said. “When we called for a no-fly zone, we didn’t mean our planes.”
Former White House National Security Adviser James L. Jones defended the president.
“It’s a moment in time when there is no real clarity, but the things that have to be worked on are being worked on,” the former Marine Corps general said on CNN.
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Tim Devaney is a national reporter who covers business and international trade for The Washington Times. Previously, he worked for the Detroit News, Grand Rapids Press, Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.
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