(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is congratulating the Biden administration for its drone strike on al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, but he described Zawahiri’s presence in Afghanistan as a “five-alarm fire” that the U.S. must douse.
“Al-Qaeda has a foothold in Afghanistan, it’s growing by the day…and the likelihood of an attack on our homeland is as high as I’ve seen it since 9/11,” Graham said on Tuesday.
“You had the leader of al-Qaeda, who’s been on the FBI’s most-wanted list for years, on the balcony of a home owned by the minister of interior in the Taliban government. If this is not a brazen sign that al-Qaeda is back in the game in Afghanistan, working with the Taliban, I don’t know what would be,” Graham told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade.
“I want to just let your (radio) listeners know I’ve never been more worried about the re-emergence of radical Islam in Afghanistan than I am now. So how did this happen?” Graham asked.
“How could the leader of al-Qaeda — on the most wanted list, for years if not decades — show up in Kabul to the point that he could be on a balcony of the home by the minister of interior, and Taliban and al-Qaeda not working with each other?
“The U.N. said, a couple of weeks ago, there are 10,000 to 15,000 international terrorists inside of Afghanistan. So, this is a breeding ground for radical Islam just like it was before 9/11. And we have a broken border,” Graham said.
“So, the next guy to take over from Zawahiri has got to prove himself on the streets of radical Islam. How do you do that? You outdo the people that you’re taking over from. You hit America,” Graham continued.
“So, I’m telling the Biden administration right now that all the signals I see coming out of Afghanistan is a building attack against the American homeland.”
President Biden told the nation on Monday night that the successful strike on Zawahiri proves the effectiveness of over-the-horizon counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan without the need for U.S. troops to be there.
But Graham noted that Biden also said a year ago that al Qaeda was gone from Afghanistan.
“So if Joe Biden, President Biden, doesn’t understand this is the strongest signal yet that al-Qaeda is alive and well inside of Afghanistan, it’s incredibly dangerous.
“My biggest fear is coming true. That we’d pull the plug on Afghanistan, it would fall into the Taliban hands and, before you know it, international terrorists will re-emerge in Afghanistan like before 9/11. There are training camps all over the country.
“We do not have a counter-terrorism program that — to stop the re-emergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan. Killing one person doesn’t destroy an organization.
“I am glad they got the guy. But I’m here to tell your audience that al-Qaeda has a foothold in Afghanistan, it’s growing by the day…And the likelihood of an attack on our homeland is as high as I’ve seen it since 9/11.”
Graham said the U.S. must view the Taliban as a threat to the American homeland. “We need to go to Pakistan and the surrounding regions and say, now that we know the leader of al-Qaeda was openly in cahoots with the Taliban, that they are, in fact, a state sponsor of terrorism; that the Taliban are providing safe haven to our sworn mortal enemy al-Qaeda; and they’re ineffectively fighting ISIS.
“So, what I would tell Pakistan and the region is that America is going to have a forward-presence. We’re going after the training camps, and you need to help us because al-Qaeda’s re-emergence in Afghanistan’s a threat to the entire region.
“So, rather than trying to buy the Taliban off, I would use this as an opportunity to clearly define our relationship with the Taliban: you are harboring international terrorists, you’re creating conditions for an attack on the American homeland, and we’re coming after any and every terrorist we can find inside of Afghanistan.
“And we do this through an alliance of people in the region. We move assets forward so we can better deal with this.”
Graham also pointed to the broken U.S. border:
“We’ve lost operational control of the border. We had the — an al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan that is unchecked by the Taliban. We have a rise in ISIS. We have 10,000 to 15,000 international terrorists flowing into Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.
“And we don’t have the presence we need to stop the training camps before it’s too late.
“So, I would urge the Biden administration to change policy, isolate the Taliban, consider them a terrorist state, and work with partners in the region who do not want al-Qaeda to come back.”
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