Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who just returned from Afghanistan with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), says the intelligence community is unified in its assessment that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL) is a direct threat to the United States.
“According to director of national intelligence, the FBI director and most of our intelligence community, ISIS presents a direct threat to the homeland in Syria, now Iraq,” Graham told CBS on Sunday. “Americans and Western Europeans are going to help their cause. And they can flow back here. So, yes, they are a direct threat to the homeland and they’re getting much stronger as we speak.”
“I think it’s important to recognize that we did have this situation stabilized, thanks to the surge, that we could have left a residual force behind which would have stabilized the situation,” McCain said.
“This is not like a hurricane or an earthquake. This didn’t have to happen. This is a failure of United States policy. And, by the way, there still is none that I can discern, either a policy or a strategy, to handle this situation.”
McCain called the new caliphate, which encompasses an area stretching across Syria and Iraq that eclipses the size of Jordan, “the largest and richest enclave of radical terrorism in history.”
“And one of the things that we need to do, of course we want Maliki to be replaced, but we got to stop ISIS first. And that means that we’re going to have to do airstrikes. And we need to step up our support for the Free Syrian Army that is really right now getting very badly beaten,” McCain said.
“…You’re going to see the same result in Afghanistan. We just came back from there. They feel abandoned.”
“I think the big fear I have about what we’re doing in Afghanistan is that we have great capability now. We can watch a part of the world that is a safe haven for terrorists. Thirteen years after 9/11, there are more safe havens. There are more terrorist groups with more weapons and more capabilities than before 9/11, and we’re having less capability, less presence,” Graham said.
“If we get down to 1,000 troops by 2017, and dismantle our eyes and ears in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will haunt us far worse than Iraq. The counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan is a front-line defense against — for the homeland and it is being destroyed by this idea of leaving completely in 2017,” he continued.
“Mr. President, reverse your course. Keep our counterterrorism capabilities in effect to protect us here at home.”
McCain stressed that they’re not advocating combat troops.
“We’re advocating leaving sustaining capability to give them the capabilities that they don’t have right now,” he said.