U.S. senators on a visit to Kabul urge the Obama administration not to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan to avoid ''a nightmare like in Iraq.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) The international military mission in Afghanistan will fail if troop levels are reduced further, with potentially dangerous repercussions for the rest of the world, a delegation of U.S. lawmakers warned during a visit to Kabul on Monday (July 4). Fifteen years after an American-led operation toppled the Taliban in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, President Barack Obama is considering whether to maintain the current level of 9,800 U.S. troops or reduce it to 5,500 by the end of the year, as current plans call for. "I can not guarantee success if we keep 9,800, but I can ensure you failure if we go to 5,500 and I will have a hard time supporting our continued presence here because it's not fair to those who are left behind at 5,500. They just can't do the job. So I hope President Obama will learn from Iraq and will follow sound military advice," Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters in Kabul. Graham joined U.S. senators John McCain, Benjamin Sasse, and Joe Donnelly in a visit timed so the bipartisan delegation could visit with troops during the Independence Day holiday. The Obama administration should decide on troop levels "sooner rather than later," McCain said, arguing that reducing the number of troops could lead to a repeat of the disaster in Iraq, where Islamic State militants seized major cities and wide swathes of territory. "We believe strongly that we need 9,800 here and further reductions will then cause a replay of the Iraq nightmare that was caused when we totally withdrew from Iraq, which created al-Qaeda, which then created ISIS. So we have strongly supported the president's decision and we think that decision should be sooner rather than later to maintain strength of U.S. forces of 9,800 here and that decision should be condition based, not calendars based," said U.S. senator John McCain. McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sharply criticized the White House's decision last year to restrict U.S. forces from targeting Taliban fighters except in self-defense and other limited circumstances.