Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

Graham, a vocal defender of military action in Afghanistan and previous operations in Iraq, said he was “very disappointed” with the former House speaker’s recent comments that the United States no longer has “the willpower or the capacity to do the things you have to do to fundamentally change” Afghanistan.

“Speaker Gingrich is a smart guy,” Graham said, but added that “I’m looking for a leader who’s not going to play into a war-weary public.”

Graham, who has not endorsed a candidate in the GOP presidential primary, singled out Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney for being “very responsible” in their discussions of Afghanistan.

“We’ve got enough people in politics who are playing the polls and blowing with the wind,” Graham said. “I’m not interested in nominating someone who doesn’t understand the strategic importance of Afghanistan. I’m not interested in being in a party that can’t support a general who’s got a good plan to withdraw. I have no desire of being the isolationist party.”

The South Carolina Republican also blasted reports that the White House is discussing whether to reduce U.S. forces in Afghanistan by at least another 20,000 by 2013, saying that such plans would undercut the withdrawal plans of Gen. John Allen, commander of American forces there.

“This Gen. Allen has a plan to withdraw and transition that should be supported by both parties, so when I criticize President Obama I do so because I think it’s necessary to call out people who want to undercut the general and when people in my party do it, they need to be criticized too,” Graham said.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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