The United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan is nearly complete. But not everyone is happy about it. Some Democrats and Republicans, as well as our European allies, have grave concerns about what will befall the country after the U.S.-led coalition is gone. And former President George W. Bush is one of those.
Bush, in an interview with the German news service Deutsche Welle, said that withdrawing American and NATO troops from Afghanistan is “a mistake.”
“You know, I think it is [a mistake], yeah, because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad,” the former president said.
The war and the U.S. involvement in the country began just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks during Bush’s presidency.
Bush added that he is concerned about the fate of civilians who supported the coalition during the war, especially the translators left behind in Afghanistan. “They’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.”
After al-Qaeda’s attacks on the U.S., Bush gave Taliban leader Mullah Omar an ultimatum: hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and dismantle militant training camps or prepare to be attacked. Omar refused and a U.S.-led coalition launched an invasion in October 2001. The invasion began with the famous “horse soldiers.”
When the mission changed from ousting the Taliban to nation-building thousands of troops poured into the country. During the 20-year war, more than 2,400 American troops were killed and more than 20,000 wounded. The war has cost U.S. taxpayers more than two trillion dollars.
The Future of Afghan Women Looks Dark
Bush said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported the NATO mission in Afghanistan “because she saw the progress that could be made for young girls and women in Afghanistan.”
“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 added.
Germany has completely withdrawn its troops from the country, whereas 10 percent of U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan.
With the U.S.-led coalition withdrawing, the Taliban have gone on the offensive, sweeping over several districts. The plight of Afghan troops, interpreters, and women worries many in the coalition.
Former President Bush is mostly concerned about the fate of girls and women. Under the strict and backward Sharia law practiced by the Taliban, women cannot be educated, and can’t leave the house unless accompanied by a male member of the household. For the past 20 years, the girls and women of Afghanistan have enjoyed unprecedented access to education and business opportunities that will again be unavailable to them under Taliban rule.
“I’m sad,” Bush said. “[My wife] and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared.”
But while Bush feels the U.S. should have remained in the country and stayed the course, the Biden administration says it is time for Afghans to take charge of their own fate.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country,” Biden said.