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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney calls Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal an ‘error’

Mike Lee and Chris Stewart back the president’s decision to end the conflict by Sept. 11.

(Jim Huylebroek | The New York Times) Afghan security forces, some with uniform and others without, man a lone outpost near Panjwai, Afghanistan, Jan. 30, 2021.

The top generals were hoping to keep at least a modest military force in Afghanistan, but President Joe Biden disagreed. He wants all of the troops out by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Sen. Mitt Romney sides with the generals.

The Utah Republican spelled out his position late Tuesday, roughly a week after Biden announced the impending withdrawal.

“The president’s plan to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September is an error that could have serious consequences for our national security interests,” warned Romney, after receiving a classified briefing on the matter. “Like all Americans, I want our troops to come home, but I recognize and profoundly appreciate the vital role they often play in far and dangerous places like Afghanistan to protect our national security.”

Romney said the presence of troops is necessary to prevent the Taliban from helping terrorist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. He said the military also supports the democratic government in Afghanistan and safeguards the rights of women and girls.

Biden has said that the United States will continue to monitor terrorist threats and will hold the Taliban accountable to its commitment to not let terrorists threaten this nation or its allies. He has promised “humanitarian and development assistance” to support the right of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The president said it is time to bring the remaining 2,500 soldiers home.

Romney’s critique of the war’s wind down contrasts with the view of Utah’s other members of Congress.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has long called for an end to the military presence in Afghanistan.

“I’m glad to see us moving out,” he told reporters shortly after Biden’s decision became public. “I’ve got a daughter who was an infant when that war started, she is now halfway through college. I want to see us get out of there, a timely withdrawal seems like a good thing to me.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, has also released a statement lauding Biden’s decision. Stewart said he supported former President Donald Trump’s call to withdraw troops last year and now he backs Biden’s plan to do the same.

“As a 14-year veteran of the Air Force, I know firsthand the enormous challenges we face overseas,” Stewart said. “Every year, security in the region gets worse and not better. America is better served to reallocate its resources and focus on the more immediate challenges we face around the world. I am grateful for President Biden’s decision to end this needless war.”

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