Former President George W. Bush criticized the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, warning that the consequences will be “unbelievably bad,” and calling the decision a “mistake.”
The former president, during an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, warned that Afghan women and girls would “suffer unspeakable harm.”
“This is a mistake,” Bush said. “They’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.”
Bush’s comments come after President Biden, last week, said U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan sooner than his original Sept. 11 deadline. Biden told reporters last week U.S. troops would be home by Aug. 31.
“In this context, speed is safety,” Biden told reporters, adding that not a single U.S. military member has been lost during the withdrawal process.
“The United States did what we went to do in Afghanistan – to get the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Usama bin Laden,” he continued. “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.”
During an exclusive interview with Fox News in May, Bush said he did not think withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan was “necessary,” telling Fox News that he is “deeply concerned” that a “vacuum” will be created without a U.S. presence in the region.
“I’ve always warned that no U.S. presence in Afghanistan will create a vacuum, and into that vacuum is likely to come people who treat women as second class citizens,” Bush, who was president during the 9/11 attacks, told Fox News.
“I’m also deeply concerned about the sacrifices of our soldiers, and our intelligence community, will be forgotten,” Bush told Fox News.
“And you know, was it necessary? I don’t think so,” he continued. “But the decision has been made, and we now need to pray and hope that it is the right decision.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s comments ran counter to White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s claim last week that the U.S. will not have a “mission accomplished moment.”
“It’s a 20-year war that has not been won militarily,” she told reporters.
But Biden struck down this argument and said that in preventing future attacks from Al Qaeda and killing Usama bin Laden, the U.S. had “accomplished” its goal.
The president further pushed back on some GOP calls to remain in Afghanistan as the Taliban gains in strength.
Biden said it is the “right and responsibility” of the Afghan people to decide how their country will function, and the impetus of the government to protect the nation’s sovereignty.
The U.S. will continue to provide air support for Afghani military forces, along with humanitarian and civilian assistance on important issues surrounding women’s rights.
But Biden doubled down on his decision not to leave a standing military force and posed the question, “How many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk?”
“How long would you have them stay?” he continued. “I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan.”
“Staying would have meant U.S. troops taking casualties,” Biden added.
The War in Afghanistan, the United States’ longest-running war, saw more than 2,400 deaths and nearly 21,000 wounded.
During the 20-year period, American troops trained more than 300,000 Afghan military members and security forces to help them combat the threat of the Taliban.
Despite the training efforts and attempted peace deal by the U.S., the Taliban is estimated to have gained control over at least 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts.