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George W. Bush: Afghanistan troop withdrawal 'a mistake'

July 14, 2021

Former US President George W. Bush, whose administration began the US-led war against the Taliban in 2001, has told DW he fears for the fate of women in Afghanistan after American and NATO troops leave the country.

US soldiers look at a helicopter flying overhead
US troops are set to have left Afghanistan by the end of AugustImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Operation Resolute Support Headquarters/Sgt. Justin T. Updegraff

Afghanistan troop withdrawal a mistake, says George W. Bush

Former US President George W. Bush has labeled the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan "a mistake," in an interview with DW.

"I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm," he said, adding that he was also concerned for translators and other people who gave support to foreign troops in Afghanistan. "They're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart." 

Bush's comments refer to the hardline Islamic Taliban that are making sweeping gains across the country amid the drawdown of US and NATO forces, set to be complete by September — 20 years after the war began.

The former US president sent troops to Afghanistan in autumn 2001, following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Bush added that he believed German Chancellor Angela Merkel "feels the same way" about the pullout. 

When DW asked Kabul-based journalist Ali Latifi about Bush's comments, he said: "I think it's very interesting that he's suddenly, you know, concerned about women and children," adding, "his war made a lot of widows and made a lot of children orphans."

Ending a 20-year war

US and NATO forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in early May.

The US military said recently that its ongoing troop withdrawal is more than 90% complete and President Joe Biden said it would be wrapped up by August 31.

At the end of June, Germany announced it had withdrawn all troops from the country and closed its consulate general in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

Italy has also declared the end of its mission in Afghanistan and Poland has already brought all its troops home.

US and NATO troops on July 2 vacated the symbolic Bagram Air Base in Kabul, which was once the epicenter of the US military's operations in the country.

Who is in control of Afghanistan?

Political and military control have been handed to the Afghan government, which was meant to be carrying out peace talks with the Taliban.

But the Taliban have been carrying out an offensive, particularly in Afghanistan's rural areas, bringing more territories under their control.

On Wednesday, they reported taking control of the strategic Afghan border crossing to Pakistan at Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan.

Biden last week ruled out further intervention in the country, saying the US had achieved its objectives of getting "the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat."

He said: "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."

Asked about the legacy of the war in Afghanistan, journalist Ali Lafiti said: "The fact that we're having these questions is the legacy, right? The fact that the Taliban is still able to pose a threat to the government and to security forces, the fact that we're still having these battles and the fact that we're still asking what might happen to women, to children, to interpreters, you know, 20 years down the line — that is the legacy."

Kate Martyr
Kate Martyr Editor and video producer at DW's Asia Desk and News Digital