Park RecordAugust 27, 2021

Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday said there are two presidential administrations responsible for the chaos in Afghanistan as the U.S. withdrawal from that country nears.

In an interview with The Park Record after he toured the land burned during the recent Parleys Canyon Fire, the senator said President Biden and former President Trump each had a role in what is occurring. He said “the buck always stops at the top.”

“I think President Trump was wrong in the timeframe he put in place for evacuating. Doing it in the middle of fighting season when the Taliban is in Afghanistan is, in my opinion, a major error,” Romney said. “Negotiating from a position of weakness was an error. If you say we’re going to withdraw and then you sit down and have a negotiation, why you’re obviously giving the other side what they want from the beginning.”

The Biden administration, though, is in charge as the U.S. moves out of Afghanistan, he noted.

“And of course President Biden has to take responsibility for the very faulty way in which the evacuation has been managed,” he said.

He added: “The evacuation has been extraordinarily poorly carried out. Not by the military. They’ve done a heroic job, in my view, in the very short time period that they were given to help evacuate people. But instead, if you will, the civilian leadership — the decisions made were not ideal for being able to get our people out safely.”

Romney said there will be lasting impact for the U.S.

“America’s credibility has been damaged, I would imagine, for a long, long time to come,” he said.

He also outlined questions he has for the Biden administration.

“I will ask them what would you have done differently with the benefit of experience and what occurred. … My guess is, some of the things that come to mind: One, I wouldn’t have closed Bagram Air Force base. That’s one I would have kept open. Number two, I would have begun evacuating Afghans far earlier so there wasn’t a huge mass having to get out at the very, very last minute. Three, I would have a contact for all the American citizens living in the area so we knew how to find them and get them to the airport,” he said. “These are the kinds of things that you would have hoped would have been dealt with. … I would make sure the prison doesn’t get emptied and ISIS-K individuals get unleashed upon our soldiers.”

Romney honored the victims of the bombing at the airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

“Our hearts are extraordinarily heavy. We ache for the loss of life of the 13 service people from our nation that lost their lives and for the hundred or so Afghan partners of ours who lost their lives. It is just unimaginable tragedy,” he said.

Romney’s stop in the Park City area was the second in eight days by a member of the congressional delegation. Rep. Blake Moore, whose 1st Congressional District includes Park City and surrounding Summit County, held a town hall-style event at the Richins Building the previous Friday, also addressing Afghanistan.