WASHINGTON — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney placed blame on both the Biden and Trump administrations for the current situation in Afghanistan, warning that the "decision to pull our military out ... puts us in greater danger."
"This is the result of a very ineffective decisions, terrible decisions made by the prior administration and the current administration," the Utah Republican told Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.
"This did not have to happen. It was preventable."
Romney pointed to former President Donald Trump's decision to negotiate with the Taliban directly. The roughly 5,000 prisoners that were released, he said, included members of the Taliban and possibly ISIS-K, the group that claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghanistan civilians.
"I mean, we don't know if some of them were involved in the attack that occurred," he said. "These are the decisions that led to what you're seeing."
One of the dead is Marine Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, a Utah native who was honored Sunday night in a vigil at the Utah Capitol. Romney said Hoover would be remembered "as an American hero, there's no question."
Romney then cited the Biden administration's decision to close Bagram Air Base, once the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan before being taken over by the Taliban, as a reason for the "rushed circumstance with terrorists breathing down our neck."
The senator called the decision to leave Americans and "our Afghan friends behind" a "moral stain."
Romney went on to say he would favor keeping several thousand troops in Afghanistan "for as long as necessary to keep us more safe," pointing to the post-war U.S. military presence in Germany, Japan and South Korea.
"There's a political slogan — endless wars. But that doesn't translate into a serious policy decisions, and the real policy is this: You can't as one party end a war. It takes two parties to end a war. The Taliban and radical, violent jihadists in the world, they haven't stopped fighting. They're going to continue to fight us. The war is not over, we're just no longer in it."
Maintaining a small presence in places where there is hostility toward the U.S. and its allies ensures that hostility doesn't come to America, he said.
We must not forget what radical jihadists did on 9/11. We were in Afghanistan to prevent another tragedy on U.S. soil, yet now we're pulling out amid rising threats. Maintaining a small presence in places of hostility helps to ensure that that hostility doesn't come to America. pic.twitter.com/ljq3Tn9gVg— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) August 29, 2021
Romney then said "we owe a debt or gratitude" toward many Afghan civilians that aided the U.S. in the decadeslong war, many of whom may soon be seeking asylum in the U.S.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox made it clear that the Beehive State "stands ready to welcome refugees from Afghanistan, especially those who valiantly helped our troops over the past 20 years."
Catholic Community Services, one of two primary refugee resettlement agencies in Utah, is preparing for the arrival of Afghan civilians in the coming weeks.
The Utah Republican doesn't know how his GOP colleagues would vote on whether to accept Afghan refugees, but believes "they recognize that we have a moral responsibility, and in keeping with our national character, they welcome people in our country who seek asylum and those particularly who fought alongside our troops."
Perspective is important, he said, noting that the number of refugees that will likely be resettled is exceeded "almost every month" on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"I am very pleased that we're going to have individuals that come to our country that can contribute to America and believe in the principals in which this country was founded," he said.
Some Republicans are not as open to the idea of resettling Afghan refugees. Montana Rep. Matt Rosendale tweeted "the administration should focus on getting Americans out of Afghanistan before it prioritizes unvetted 'refugees,'" while Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert expressed concern over "reports ... of Afghans using fraudulent US passports."
The administration should focus on getting Americans out of Afghanistan before it prioritizes unvetted "refugees." https://t.co/OMUDsFIT88— Matt Rosendale (@RepRosendale) August 18, 2021
I am deeply concerned with the Administration's lack of oversight on who is actually coming into the country from Afghanistan.— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) August 25, 2021
There are reports today of Afghans using fraudulent US passports and not being subjected to biometric screening at the Kabul airport.