The US military will never leave Afghanistan if Sen. Lindsey Graham has his way.
The Republican senator from South Carolina expressed his hope Sunday that the country would invite the US to install permanent military bases.
“I hope that we can find an enduring relationship with Afghanistan that will make sure that country never goes back into the hands of terrorists,” Graham told NBC’s David Gregory. “The idea of putting permanent military bases on the table in 2011, I think, would secure our national interests and tell the bad guys and the good guy we’re not leaving, we are staying.”
“But that’s important,” observed Gregory. “You believe a permanent US military presence in Afghanistan is required to order to head off a potential failed state in the future?”
“I think it would be enormously beneficial to the region as well as Afghanistan,” Graham replied.
“We’ve had airbases all over the world. A couple of air bases in Afghanistan would allow the Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban in perpetuity. It would be a signal to Pakistan that the Taliban are never going to come back in Afghanistan. They could change their behavior.”
Graham continued: “It would be a signal to the whole region that Afghanistan is going to be a new and different place and if the Afghan people want this relationship, they are going to have to earn it. But I hope they will seek a relationship with the United States where we can have an enduring relationship, economic, militarily and politically.”
In December, Graham made similar remarks to CNN’s Eliot Spitzer.
“Under the right circumstances I think it would really secure the gains we made to have a U.S. presence in Afghanistan, two airbases that would be beneficial to the Afghan security forces,” he said.
“I am appalled by Senator Graham’s comments,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) said in a statement. “Rather than advocating for a permanent extension of the costly and counterproductive military occupation of Afghanistan, it is time to finally end America’s longest war and bring our men and women in uniform home.”
President Obama’s administration has vowed to begin a withdrawal of US troops starting in July of this year, but in recent months administration spokespeople have been backtracking on that deadline.
This video is from NBC’s Meet the Press, broadcast Jan. 2, 2010.