South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday called for a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, and warned that pulling American troops out in 2011 would seriously jeopardize progress there.
Graham also argued that providing State Department contractors with military equipment after the withdrawal of American troops would be, essentially, creating "a mini State Department army" - and that it was the "wrong strategy."
"I'm deeply concerned," Graham said, of the situation in Iraq, during a Sunday appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We're inside the ten yard line in terms of finishing job in Iraq. In 2011 all [American] troops are supposed to leave."
U.S. ground troops are slated to withdraw from operations in Iraq by the end of 2011, but a strong diplomatic presence will remain in Baghdad's Green Zone. According to a July report on the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the State Department has requested additional personnel - as well as heavy military equipment like Black Hawk helicopters and mine-resistant trucks - in order to "meet its continuing security and support needs" after the troops are gone.
"I do not believe the State Department can carry on their ... mission of helping the Iraqi government and people reconstitute their society to help them build a civil society without American forces there to provide security, air power, logistical support for the Iraqi army," Graham argued. "This idea ... that we'll have a State Department army, I will not vote for that. I will not support that."
Graham argued that providing the State Department with such military capacity was a "back-up plan" and "a losing formula."
"If all military forces have withdrawn from Iraq in 2011, the State Department has come to the Congress and said, 'We're going to need over 50 mine resistant vehicles. We need a fleet of helicopters and thousands of private security guards,'" Graham said. "I think that is a losing formula. I do not believe the State Department should have an army, that that that's not the way to provide security.
"If we're not smart enough to work with the Iraqis, to have 10-15,000 American troops in Iraq in 2012, Iraq could go to hell," he added. "This is a defining moment in the future of Iraq. And the Obama administration has the wrong strategy in Libya, and in my view they're going down the wrong road when it comes to Iraq."