Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday criticized the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan — saying he fears that women and girls in the country will “suffer unspeakable harm” at the hands of the Taliban.
Asked in an interview with German news outlet Deutsche Welle whether the withdrawal is a mistake, the former Republican president replied: “You know, I think it is, yeah, because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.”
After the 9/11 attacks on the US during Bush’s presidency, Washington gave Taliban leader Mullah Omar an ultimatum to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and dismantle militant training camps — or prepare to be attacked.
When Omar refused, a US-led coalition launched an invasion in October 2001.
But as the withdrawal of US and NATO forces — set in motion earlier this year by President Joe Biden — now nears completion, Taliban fighters have been taking control of large swaths of the country.
“It’s unbelievable how that society changed from the brutality of the Taliban, and all of a sudden — sadly — I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm,” Bush told the publication.
During the Taliban’s rule, women were largely confined to their homes, and girls had no access to education in the violence-wracked country.
Despite protestations from the US and Europe, the Taliban enforced its extreme version of Islamic Shariah law, though there was no mass violence against girls and women.
“I’m sad. Laura (Bush) and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only US troops but NATO troops, and it seems like they’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people,” Bush told the outlet.
“And it breaks my heart,” he added.
In the DW interview, which marked outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s final official visit to the US, Bush also insisted Merkel had supported the deployment in Afghanistan in part “because she saw the progress that could be made for young girls and women in Afghanistan.”
With Post wires