GOP Senator Lindsey Graham Warns Against Trump's Taliban Peace Deal: 'Afghanistan Will Fall Apart and Civil War Will Emerge'

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham warned that President Donald Trump's Taliban peace deal, which calls for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops, could have a devastating impact on Afghanistan and lead to "civil war."

The Trump administration signed the conditional peace agreement with the Taliban in Qatar on Saturday, in a bid to bring America's longest war to an end. Hailing the historic deal, Trump said that it was "time to bring our people back home." But Graham, normally a staunch Trump defender, has argued that withdrawing all U.S. troops will make Afghanistan "fall apart."

"Mr. President, let's get the Taliban to the table but let's don't trust the Taliban to defend America," Graham said during an interview with Fox News morning show Fox & Friends on Monday morning, directing his remarks directly at Trump. "We need some of our forces in place," the senator from South Carolina continued, "that's what [former President Barack] Obama failed to do in Iraq."

Under the agreement signed with Taliban leaders, the U.S. and its allies would withdraw their troops within 14 months. Additionally, the U.S. agreed to remove sanctions targeting the militant extremist group and to work with the United Nations to similarly undo international sanctions directed at the organization's leaders. In exchange, the group will not allow Al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations to operate in large swaths of Afghanistan under its control.

Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham attends a panel discussion during the 2020 Munich Security Conference on February 14 in Germany. Graham has argued that withdrawing all U.S. troops will make Afghanistan "fall apart." Johannes Simon/Getty

"If this is a withdrawal document, then Afghanistan will fall apart and civil war will emerge," Graham argued, commenting on the agreement's provision to remove all U.S. and allied forces. "Women will go back into the darkness, and Al-Qaeda and ISIS will come forward again to threaten us," he said.

The senator noted, however, that the deal was "conditional" on Taliban cooperation. He then argued for keeping "a small American counter-terrorism force" to protect the U.S. from the possible rise of extremist groups inside the country.

Although Trump voiced optimism about the agreement on Saturday, he also warned that the U.S. would quickly return if the Taliban did not keep up its side of the deal.

"I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we're not all wasting time," he said. "If bad things happen, we'll go back with a force like no one's ever seen."

Critics of the agreement and the negotiations that led to the deal have noted that talks took place between the U.S. and the Taliban, while seeming to sideline the American-backed Afghan government. Direct talks between Afghanistan's government and the militant group are supposed to move forward on March 10.

But Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected a key component of the peace deal, which called for his government to release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for about 1,000 Afghan security forces held by the militant group.

"The government of Afghanistan has made no commitment to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners," Ghani told reporters in the country's capital Kabul on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, less than a month after the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and over Pennsylvania, on September 11 of that year. Although no Afghanis or Taliban members carried out the attacks, the Taliban was accused of providing shelter and support to Al-Qaeda, which masterminded the plot. While the U.S. initially endeavored to remove the Taliban from power, nearly 20 years later, the current agreement would allow the militant group to negotiate its future in the country with Afghanistan's government.

About 12,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in Afghanistan and more than 2,400 have been killed in the nearly two decade-long conflict. Trump has said that 5,000 of the troops stationed in the country would leave by May.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghanis have been killed in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion. Since 2009, when the United Nations began keeping an official count of the conflicts casualties, at least 100,000 have been killed or injured.