Graham is the only member of the Senate to have served in Iraq, reserves or otherwise.
After serving two weeks of reserve duty in Iraq, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) yesterday called for continuation of the "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq and warned that any decision to mandate a withdrawal this year would undercut critical gains made in recent months.
Graham's comments come at a time when some of his colleagues on the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), are calling for troop withdrawals. Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and a longtime supporter of military deployment in Iraq, is the only member of the Senate to serve in Iraq.
"With all due respect to Senator Warner, the model he is suggesting -- to put pressure [on the Iraqi government] by mandating troop withdrawal -- is exactly the opposite of what we should do," Graham said in an interview after returning from Iraq this past weekend. "I believe the pressure that will lead to reconciliation will not be from what an American politician thinks but what the Iraqi people think. And I'm confident that the Iraqi people have turned a corner."
Graham, who wore fatigues and was armed with a Beretta pistol throughout his stay, also served a brief reserve duty in Iraq in April. During previous trips to Iraq -- both on reserve duty and on official congressional visits -- he said he had concluded that the United States was making "many mistakes" in its war strategy and was on the verge of losing control of Iraq, particularly when Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was the military commander.
But the boost in U.S. forces has produced more progress than Graham had anticipated, he said yesterday.
"The surge has produced better security. And if you mandated withdrawal now, it would undercut the progress we've made and embolden people who are on the ropes. Be patient. Continue to supply strongly economic, political and military support, and I believe . . . we'll have a breakthrough in Baghdad," he said.
He goes on to cite Anbar Province and their rejection of al-Qaeda being evident in 12,000 Iraqi's joining the police force compared to only 1,000 in all of 2006. He also makes it clear that the Iraqi government is dysfunctional but not a "failed state".
"In many ways, this government is dysfunctional, but it's not a failed state. They're still trying," he said. "If you went in only to talk to Maliki, you'd come away depressed. But if you get out and about, then you'd have a different perspective."
Graham predicted that Maliki's personal political flaws would be overshadowed by events on the ground. Breaking with mounting congressional skepticism about Iraq's future, he said that a new momentum from the streets to reconcile, stop the killing and reject both al-Qaeda in Iraq and Iran was reaching the point that "all Maliki has to do is get out of the way," he said.
Graham also said that the August break taken by Iraq's parliament, which sparked deep controversy in Washington, had been a "blessing in disguise" because so many lawmakers went back to their districts and "got an earful," he said.
In other Iraq news, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ruled out a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq. He says they still have an important job to do there.
Writing to the leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he still has objectives to take care of in Iraq and therefore he insists setting a timetable would undermine those efforts.
In his stance Gordon Brown is echoing the Australian counterpart John Howard who has made it clear that he will keep his forces in Iraq despite anything the UK does.
Since becoming prime minister two months ago, Mr Brown has faced similar calls to his Australian counterpart John Howard about exactly how long allied troops will remain in Iraq.
Last week, Mr Howard faced more calls to clarify comments he made which appeared to suggest he would leave Australian troops in Iraq even if other countries like Britain pulled theirs out.
Iraq is expected to dominate talks between Mr Howard and George W Bush when the US president visits Sydney ahead of the APEC summit next month.
In his letter, Mr Brown wrote that Britain had obligations to the Iraqi government and United Nations to remain in Iraq until the country's own military forces were ready.
"Decisions on UK force levels and posture in Iraq are dictated by conditions on the ground," Mr Brown wrote.
"It is wrong to say that the continuing presence of UK forces in Iraq will achieve little, or that they are severely restricted in what they can do.
"We, together with the rest of the international community, have undertaken to support the country's political and economic development through the UN-led International Compact for Iraq.
"These are commitments it is not in our interests simply to abandon."
Brown, Howard and Bush all understand the need to make sure the Iraqi's are capable of maintaining their security before any reduction in troops or withdrawal and even time lines be set, as well as making sure their is no vacuum left in Iraq for Iran or al-Qaeda to step in to further endanger our combined interests.
As Graham pointed out there is amazing progress being made, both politically and militarily in Iraq.
Our Congress will have a fight on their hands and not just from Bush, but from Republicans that are finally seeing the fruits of our efforts in Iraq, if they even attempt to undermine the success we are seeing now by all accounts, including some die hard Democratic war critics.
They may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in their upcoming elections, but they will NOT snatch defeat from the jaws of victory from our troops, our coalition forces or the Iraqi security forces.
(NOTE: Instead of leaving you with the advertisements I usually have at the bottom of each post, I will leave you with one of the videos from Freedoms Watch) [30 second video.]
Wife who has lost her husband: