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May 18, 2015 11:30 AM

Graham: 'I'm running' to be 'best commander in chief'

The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham all but confirmed Monday that he will run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, saying he believes he'd be the best commander in chief amid continued Middle East unrest.

"I'm running because I think the world is falling apart," Graham said in an interview on "CBS This Morning."

A foreign policy hawk and a critic of President Barack Obama's troop reductions in the Middle East, Graham said he believes "more American soldiers will die in Iraq and eventually in Syria to protect our homeland."

He pointed to the Iraqi city of Ramadi, which recently fell to Islamic State militants, as proof that the U.S. must assert itself in the region.

The third-term senator told CBS he will make his official campaign announcement June 1 in his hometown of Central, South Carolina. He would be the only Republican candidate from one of the four early voting states that also include Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

In his early travels to Iowa, New Hampshire and around his home state, Graham has said he believes national security is the most important issue of the 2016 election and that it matters more than anything else to Republican primary voters.

He said Monday that the destabilization of Iraq, continued strife in Syria, Iranian influence in the region and the proliferation of the Islamic State militant group combine to pose a grave threat to Americans.

Graham argued that as many as 10,000 more ground troops could be needed to help train Iraqi security forces to serve as a functional national army.

He sidestepped questions about whether the U.S. was right to invade Iraq in 2003, a question that has flummoxed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush during the last week of campaigning.

"If I'd known then what I know now, would I have launched a ground invasion? Probably not," he said, referring to false claims that Iraq possessed a weapons arsenal that could threaten American soil.

"But that's yesterday's thinking," Graham continued. "What do we do today, tomorrow and the day after?"


Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .


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