George Bush warns of ‘bad’ outcome of US Afghan exit

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
Pakistanis return from Afghanistan after crossing the border point as Pakistan partially reopened its southern crossing with Afghanistan.

Washington, Wednesday

Former United States President George W Bush, who initiated the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, has warned the US and NATO military withdrawal now speeding to a conclusion will lead to a return of brutal Taliban rule.

“The consequences are going to be unbelievably bad,” former President Bush said in an interview with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle released on Wednesday.

In the rare media interview recorded at Bush’s summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, the former president was asked whether the withdrawal is a mistake. Bush replied: “You know, I think it is, yeah.”

“It’s unbelievable how that society changed from the brutality of the Taliban, and all of a sudden — sadly — I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm,” Bush said.

Bush was president when al-Qaeda operatives hijacked commercial airliners and flew the planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon military headquarters outside Washington, DC on September 11, 2001.

The US invaded Afghanistan the following month in pursuit of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was being hosted by the Taliban.

Now almost 20 years later, President Joe Biden is following through on a negotiated agreement with the Taliban to withdraw US and foreign forces.

Emboldened by the Western withdrawal, Taliban fighters have been surging through district after district, taking control of large swaths of the country.

Taliban leaders said last week their fighters had seized control of 85 percent of the land in Afghanistan – a claim the Kabul-based government dismissed as propaganda.

Although exact details of how much of the country the group controls are difficult to determine because of Afghanistan’s rugged mountainous terrain, the Taliban is moving swiftly, often taking government forces by surprise.

On Wednesday, the Taliban claimed it had seized control of a major border crossing with Pakistan, taking down the Afghan government flag from atop the Friendship Gate between the Pakistani town of Chaman and the Afghan town of Wesh, Reuters news service reported.

The Afghan interior ministry on Wednesday said the Taliban had been repelled and government forces were in control.

Taliban fighters captured an important district in Herat province overnight Thursday into Friday – Torghundi, a northern town on the border with Turkmenistan, home to tens of thousands of minority Shia Hazaras.

The Taliban persecuted the Hazaras when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.  - AFP

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