A key Republican lawmaker on national security issues warned Tuesday that it would be a "huge mistake and a catastrophic blunder" to interpret the killing of Osama bin Laden as an end to the need for U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a press conference that -- despite the celebrations over the al Qaeda leader's death -- the Obama administration should "go slow when it goes to troop withdrawals" in Afghanistan.
Graham said he is confident that the president will not be prompted to accelerate troop withdrawals in July because "he understands the signal it will send." But, he added, he intends to ask CIA chief Leon Panetta whether the successful operation to eliminate bin Laden will ultimately be used by the administration as an "excuse" for a faster drawdown.
Panetta will brief members of Congress this afternoon in closed-door briefings on both sides of the Capitol.
Atop lawmakers' lists of questions for Panetta and other administration officials with knowledge of the U.S. raid on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan will be how the operation could affect already tense relations between the two nations. The Pakistani government has stated concerns about the unilateral nature of the raid on its soil in Abbottabad.
"You cannot trust them and you cannot abandon them," Graham said of Pakistan.
The South Carolina senator threw some cold water on one point that some in his party are eager to highlight: that specific enhanced interrogation techniques may have delivered information that led U.S. intelligence authorities to bin Laden's location.
While criticizing the Obama administration's ban on CIA operatives' use of such tactics, he called the claim that waterboarding was essential to bin Laden's capture "a misstatement."
"I do not believe this is a time to celebrate waterboarding," Graham said. "I believe this is a time to celebrate hard work."