Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday called the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan a mistake and predicted that the consequences, especially for Afghan women and girls, will be “unbelievably bad.”
“You know, I think it is,” Bush told German news outlet Deutsche Welle when asked if the withdrawal is a mistake. “I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.”
The 43rd President launched the war in Afghanistan – America’s longest war – when he sent US troops to Afghanistan following the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Bush’s comments are especially notable as he has typically been reluctant to criticize his successors’ decision-making, and they come at a time of Taliban advancements in the country and fears of a wider security breakdown.
Bush voiced particular concern for what could happen to women and girls in Afghanistan when the US troops withdraw.
“I am afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm,” Bush said. “They are scared,” he added.
Bush also pointed to the dangers faced by Afghan interpreters worked alongside the US and NATO troops in the country as
“I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only US troops, but NATO troops and they’re just, it seems like they’re just gonna be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart,” Bush said.
President Joe Biden said last week that the full drawdown of forces would be complete by the end of August and defended pulling troops from Afghanistan amid concerns of a total Taliban takeover.
“I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden said.
Several Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have also criticized the troop withdrawal. During a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, the Kentucky senator called the withdrawal a “reckless rush for the exits” and a “global embarrassment.”
“The dangers facing the Afghan people, especially, especially women and girls, are heartbreaking. The humanitarian crisis may well be historic. But this is also an awful, bungled mess from the perspective of our own national security,” McConnell said. “Ending our presence in Afghanistan will not end the terrorists’ war against us. Sadly, the opposite is likely to be true. This self-inflicted wound could very well make this struggle even more difficult and even more dangerous.”
Across Afghanistan, tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced amid a surge in fighting that followed Biden’s announcement that all US troops will be withdrawn from the country by September 11.
Since then, the Taliban claims to have taken control of nearly 200 districts across Afghanistan – mostly in the north and north-west. In many areas, they have met little resistance.
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster, Ted Barrett, Anna Coren, Sandi Sidhu and Tim Lister contributed to this report.