By Keith Laing - 03/25/12 02:26 PM EDT
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on Sunday criticized Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich for suggesting the U.S. might need to accelerate its withdrawal from Afghanistan and said his fellow GOP contenders should listen to the advice of military brass on the war.
After a shooting involving an American soldier, who allegedly killed 17 Afghanistan civilians earlier this month, Gingrich said that it may be necessary for the U.S. to “reconsider” its approach and contemplate further scaling back the American mission in the war-torn country.
"I like Newt, he's a smart guy, but listen to the general," Graham continued. "What we don't need is a bunch of politicians trying to create a military exit strategy. We're withdrawing from Afghanistan, the question is how? Do we listen to General Allen or do we listen to politicians who are trying to get a sound bite."
In an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation" earlier this month, after reports of the shootings by a rogue U.S. Army staff sergeant first surfaced, Gingrich said it was time for Washington to "reconsider the whole region.”
"We need to understand that our being in the middle of countries like Afghanistan is probably counterproductive," he said. "We're not prepared to be ruthless enough to force them to change. And yet, we are clearly an alien presence.
"I don't think we have the willpower or the capacity to do the things you have to do to fundamentally change the region," Gingrich added.
Graham said Sunday that GOP presidential frontrunner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would follow the advice of the top generals in the region, and he said he hoped President Obama would as well.
"I wish the president would do an Oval Office address and tell us why Afghanistan is important," Graham said. "It's the center of gravity in the… War on Terror. It is the place we were attacked from, where the 9-11 attackers had safe haven. It really matters that we get it right. General Allen has a plan to bring us home with security and honor."
Since announcing a surge of troops in Afghanistan in 2009, President Obama has called for withdrawal of American forces by 2014.
Graham said Sunday that "counter-terrorism" forces would be left behind and "would be an insurance policy against the Taliban ever taking over Afghanistan.”
"It would be a signal to the Pakistanis… It would be telling the Iranians, America doesn't abandon our allies," he said.