A prominent Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is praising President Barack Obama's approach to fighting terrorism in Pakistan. However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, is also worried that conservatives and liberals could join forces to undermine Obama's efforts in Afghanistan.
Obama has set July 2011 as the target date to begin to draw down the additional troops he's surged into Afghanistan. But, in an interview broadcast Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Graham predicted that conditions may not allow the troops to begin to come home by that date.
"[G]enerally speaking, this time next summer, we're still going to be engaged in one hell of a fight," Graham said. "We're going to need every troop we have today, I think, still in Afghanistan next year."
According to Graham, it will be clear by the end of this year where things stand in Afghanistan.
"If, by December, we're not showing some progress, we're in trouble," he said. "And the question is: what is progress? Without some benchmarks and measurements, it's going to be hard to sell to the American people a continued involvement in Afghanistan."
Asked about the growing tide of sentiment against the Afghanistan war, particularly among Obama's base of supporters and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, Graham said he is worried about conservative and liberal forces joining together to frustrate Obama's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
"You know what I worry most about: an unholy alliance between the right and the left," Graham said. "That there are some Republicans who are not going to take a, you know, do-or-die attitude for Obama's war. There are some Republicans that want to make this Obama's war. . . There will be some Republicans saying you can't win because of the July 2011 withdrawal date, he's made it impossible for us to win, so why should we throw good money after bad?"
Graham added that liberals could also refuse to back the president's plans in Afghanistan.
"You've got people on the left who are mad with the president because he is doing exactly what [former President George W.] Bush did and we're in a war we can't win," Graham said, adding: "My concern is that, for different reasons, they join forces and we lose the ability to hold this thing together."
But, Graham said, he thinks the president understands the consequences of losing in Afghanistan.
"He's got a political problem. But we've got a national security problem," the Republican senator said.
Graham also said that the situations in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are linked when it comes to national security.
"How do you win in Pakistan if you lose in Afghanistan?" Graham said. "And I asked the president that. How can we be successful in Pakistan, protect that regime from extremists, if all goes to hell in Afghanistan?"
While Graham expressed concern about the short and long-term situations in Afghanistan, he offered praise for what Obama is doing across the border in Pakistan.
"Things generally are the best they've been with Pakistan in a long time," Graham said. "And this is one area where President Obama doesn't get enough credit. His team, in my view, have brought out the Pakistanis into the fight better than anybody in recent memory. They're cooperating with us more."
Graham added: "So I would say that the Obama administration has done a very good job at taking the fight to the enemy in Pakistan and trying to bolster the Pakistanis' capability to take the fight to the enemy."
In addition to sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Graham is also a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Graham has served active duty in the military as an Air Force lawyer and continues to serve in the Air Force Reserves. He holds the rank of colonel and is assigned as an instructor at the Air Force Judge Advocate General School. Graham said he will be going to Afghanistan to do his reserve duty during the upcoming Senate recess in August.