WASHINGTON: Former United States president George W. Bush on Wednesday criticised the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and said civilians were being left to be “slaughtered” by the Taliban.
“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 told a German broadcaster. Asked whether he thought the withdrawal was a mistake, Bush replied: “Yes, I think it is.”
The former president, who sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre, said he believed German Chancellor Angela Merkel “feels the same way”.
Bush said Merkel, who is set to retire from politics later this year after 16 years in power, had brought “class and dignity to a very important position and made very hard decisions”.
US and Nato forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in early May and are due to completely pull out by September 11, some 20 years after they arrived in the war-torn country.
Most of the 2,500 US and 7,500 Nato troops who were in Afghanistan when US President Joe Biden detailed the final withdrawal in April have now gone, leaving Afghan troops to fight an emboldened Taliban seemingly bent on a military victory.
Political and military control have been handed to the Afghan government. The Taliban have been carrying out an offensive, particularly in rural areas, bringing more territories under their control.
The United Nations said on Sunday the rising conflict is causing “more suffering” across the violence-wracked country as it called for continuous financial aid.
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.”
“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 chart their own future,” he said.