As Sen. Mitt Romney touted his federal infrastructure bill Thursday, he also took a moment to recognize the deaths of U.S. military members in suicide bombings in Afghanistan, saying it was “wrong” to withdraw troops from the country.
“We were wrong, both President [Donald] Trump and President [Joe] Biden, to take our troops out of Afghanistan,” Romney said. “… A tragedy occurred today. I hope there are no more.”
The Utah Republican’s remarks came shortly after Biden gave a speech vowing to retaliate for the attack. ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State group, has been blamed for the bombing. The president also said he would work to evacuate Americans ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline as the Taliban seizes control.
The Afghanistan war has become increasingly unpopular among Americans in years since it began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“We went there to eliminate the threat from al-Qaida and knock down the Taliban, and the fact they hosted al-Qaida, which led to our attack on 9/11,” Romney said. “We stayed there for 20 years because we knew if we left, al-Qaida would reconstitute and attack us again, so we were there to protect America.”
Romney said a continued presence of about 5,000 U.S. troops could have helped bolster the Afghan military and that the U.S. should “have stayed there to maintain a presence.”
The country collapsed to the Taliban mere weeks after U.S. forces began withdrawing under an agreement negotiated by Trump.
“That being said, if you disagree with me and think we should have pulled out, the way it’s been pulled out has not been a great example of American capabilities,” Romney said. “As a matter of fact, it’s been a tragedy and, in many respects, we’ve lost credibility around the world.”
The freshman senator said that “there will be time down the road” to bring ISIS-K to justice for Thursday’s attack, adding that those responsible should “pay very deeply, with their lives.” He also implored the current president to focus, for now, entirely on ensuring that no U.S. citizens or allies are left behind.
“No American citizen [left] behind, no member of our military, none of the people who fought with us,” Romney said. “That’s the mission. That’s got to be carried out.”
The senator also backed previous statements from Gov. Spencer Cox welcoming Afghan refugees to Utah.
“We want them very badly, if they can get here,” Romney said, “to be able to come into our country and participate in our workforce.”
He added that he had earlier spoken with several leaders in the state’s manufacturing industry who are experiencing labor shortages.
“They would love to have some of these Afghans come here and be able to work in our communities,” Romney said, “so let’s welcome them with open arms.”
‘We were wrong’ — Sen. Mitt Romney rails against U.S. withdrawal in wake of Afghanistan bombings /p>