George W. Bush: Afghanistan withdrawal consequences will be 'unbelievably bad'

Former President George W. Bush is warning of the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as the United States marked a major milestone this week with the departure of the last commander in the country.

“I think it is, yeah, because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad. I’m sad,” Bush said when asked if it is a mistake to withdraw during an interview with DW, a German news network.

“Laura and I spend a lot of time with Afghan women and they’re scared and I think about all the interpreters and all the people that helped not just U.S. troops but NATO troops and it seems like they’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. It breaks my heart,” the former president added.

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Bush said he’s seen the progress that can be made for Afghan women and girls.

“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,” he said.

In an interview focused on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s legacy at his summer home in Maine, Bush said he thinks Merkel agrees with him.

“I’m sure Angela, I haven’t talked to her about it, but I suspect she feels the same way. After all, she was a little girl who grew up in a pretty closed society,” Bush said. 

The Pentagon’s top spokesperson said Monday that the Taliban believe they can win the war in Afghanistan following Gen. Scott Miller, who has commanded U.S. and NATO troops in the nation since 2018, handing over command of any remaining U.S. operations. 

U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie will oversee the end of the withdrawal from his headquarters in Florida. The Biden administration’s goal is for the withdrawal to officially conclude by Aug. 31.

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In the wide-ranging interview, Bush also said he was unhappy with the tone of the immigration debate in the U.S.

“I think if we start with the premise that we’re all God’s children and every life matters, then all of a sudden, one has a different perspective of how to enforce the border and how to deal with people that are escaping tyranny. Anyway, other than that, I’m pretty much out of politics,” Bush said. 

The former president was asked about his reaction when Merkel didn’t close the borders and let in refugees.

“My first reaction was, there’s a woman with a big heart. And I’m sure she was motivated by human compassion and it was clearly a tough political decision for her but she took a lead,” he said.

He also spoke about populism, saying it is a “result of more than just social media platforms.”

“I think populism reflects a frustration with society. In other words, here in the states, I made a decision in 2008 to use taxpayers’ money to bail out Wall Street to prevent a worldwide depression and that made a lot of people mad, really mad,” Bush said. 

“I wouldn’t have done it had it not been necessary to save the economy. But you can’t explain that to somebody, you can’t prove a negative,” he added.