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Lindsey Graham warns Trump not to pull all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan

By Kamran Rahman

Sen. Lindsey Graham warned President Donald Trump on Sunday not to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan below 8,600, arguing that maintaining a military presence there is key to defending the American homeland.

“Mr. President, if you don't have a counter-terrorism force left behind, even if you've got a deal with the Taliban — which I doubt, but you might — they don't have the capability or will to protect the American homeland,” the South Carolina Republican said on CBS’ “Face the Nation."

Asked by CBS host Margaret Brennan how many U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan, Graham said: “The number is gonna be around 8,600. To go below that I think would be really risky.”

Graham also said he's planning legislation that would require the secretaries of Defense and State to certify to Congress that reducing troop levels below 8,600 would not create an additional national security risk for the homeland.

Trump has long been eager to withdraw American troops from the country. And the U.S., which has about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, is in direct negotiations with the Taliban to pull out American forces in exchange for concessions.

A peace deal with the Taliban was possible, Graham said, but it would not be enough to fight the Islamic State terrorist group and al-Qaida in the region.

“You might get the Taliban to the table, but you’ll never get ISIS and al-Qaida to the table,” he said.