In an interview with the German news broadcaster Deutsche Welle, published today, Mr. Bush was asked to reflect on Germany’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, who’s been in power since 2005.
At one point, he brought up Afghanistan, saying Ms. Merkel “saw the progress that could be made” for women and girls in the country through the West’s involvement.
“It’s unbelievable how that society changed from the brutality of the Taliban,” he said.
“And now, all of a sudden, sadly, I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.”
“Is it a mistake to withdraw?” asked interviewer Ines Pohl.
“You know, I think it is, yeah. Because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad,” said Mr. Bush.
“And I’m sad. Laura and I spend a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people who 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 ruthless people. And it breaks my heart.”
Coincidentally, today the Biden administration announced it would start evacuation flights for Afghans who aided the US military in the last week of July. The flights, organized as part of Operation Allies Refuge, are available for Afghans eligible to apply for special immigrant visas.
In April, President Joe Biden set September 11 as the deadline for all US troops to leave Afghanistan, precisely two decades after the terrorist attacks that prompted America’s invasion of the country.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan, hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” he said.
“It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home.”
When Mr. Biden issued that order, there were officially 2500 troops and 16,000 private contractors still in Afghanistan. According to reports, there were also some 1000 special forces troops operating in the country who were not included in the tally. The President promised America’s “diplomatic and humanitarian work” in Afghanistan would continue, even without military involvement.
Mr. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, previously struck a deal with the Taliban for US troops to leave by May 1. The Biden administration concluded that plan was unrealistic. Last week Mr. Biden accelerated his timeline, saying the mission in Afghanistan would be over by the end of August.
Speaking from the East Room in the White House, he defended the decision to leave.
“Let me ask those who wanted us to stay: How many more? How many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?” the President asked.
Questioned by reporters, Mr. Biden insisted the mission to Afghanistan “hasn’t failed, yet. As the US and NATO forces have been finalizing their exit in recent months, the Taliban has been winning on the battlefield.