Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the Republican Party's top lawmakers on national security, criticized GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich on Thursday for suggesting that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan may not be feasible.
"I like Newt, but what Newt said about pulling the plug on Afghanistan based on the emotional reaction of the shooting is not what I want to come out of my party," Graham told a group of reporters.
A U.S. soldier is suspected of massacring 16 Afghan civilians this past weekend, an incident that has further undermined the already tenuous U.S.-Afghanistan relationship more than 10 years into the war. Commenting on the U.S. combat operation, Gingrich said Sunday: "I think that we're risking the lives of young men and women in a mission that may, frankly, not be doable."
Pressed on those comments, Graham called them a disservice to the top commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, who is executing a plan to drawdown American troops. President Barack Obama has instructed Allen to cut the number of U.S. troops from today's total of 90,000 to 68,000 by the end of September and a complete withdrawal by the end of 2014.
"We're coming home. I want to come home based on sound military strategy not politicians who got their back against the wall and are trying to create a headline," Graham said.
The South Carolina lawmaker, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said if someone wants to criticize Allen's plan, they should speak up.
"But if all you got to offer is political rhetoric and you're trying to sort of get a political advantage in a primary or a general election to undercut the plan, shame on you because that's not in America's self-interest."
Gingrich and another Republican presidential hopeful, Ron Paul, have been outspoken in challenging the continuing U.S. operation in Afghanistan. Candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have been more cautious in their commentary after the weekend incident.