- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday called on the Trump administration to walk away from “absurd” demands from the Taliban amid negotiations with the militant force to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

“I hope the Trump Administration will not give into absurd Taliban demands for US withdrawal within 18 months – regardless of conditions on the ground,” the South Carolina Republican tweeted Friday.

In his post, he linked to a January Reuters report that said U.S. and Taliban negotiators had agreed on a draft peace deal to pull out foreign troops from Afghanistan within 18 months.

“We now have a small US military footprint, along with our allies, that is an insurance policy against the reemergence of al-Qaeda/ISIS types and help hold Afghanistan together,” the senator added.

U.S. negotiators last month reportedly agreed to a draft timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the country. In response, the Taliban agreed to cut all ties with terror groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

Mr. Graham’s message comes just a week after President Trump’s nominee to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that it would be a “strategic mistake” to prematurely pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as American diplomats continue crucial negotiations with the Taliban.

Earlier this month, Mr. Trump muddied the waters on how many U.S. troops remain in the country and said that “we’re down to about 9,000” American forces in the country.

Mr. Trump campaigned on ending wars abroad and bringing American troops home, and has made no secret about wanting to draw down the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Mr. Graham, an ally of Mr. Trump, has repeatedly warned him against pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan too quickly.

“How Afghanistan turns out is vitally important to our own national security interests as this is the place it all started on 9/11,” Mr. Graham said. “We need a good deal, not a fake deal.”

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