George W. Bush criticizes Biden on withdrawal from Afghanistan

AP Photo/Doug Mills

Welp. Former President George W. Bush is finally criticizing something Joe Biden is doing. Unfortunately, it is over the withdrawal from Afghanistan. He was interviewed by a German public broadcast service, DW News, today and said that Afghan women and girls will suffer “unspeakable harm.”

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, then-President Bush decided that the United States would respond by invading Afghanistan. The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi citizen who founded al-Qaeda. The Bush administration went after bin Laden in Afghanistan because that is where he established training camps for terrorists. He, however, was reported to be living in Pakistan, which proved to be correct many years later. Osama bin Laden was killed by American troops in 2011 – Seal Team Six. We know that the result of the initial invasion of Afghanistan was American involvement in a twenty-year-long war, the longest in our history.

Hindsight is 20/20 and we know that Bush’s War on Terror has produced mixed results. The war lost support from the American public some time ago and as with another Bush-led war, the war in Iraq, Americans are war-weary. The conditions on the ground in Afghanistan, a country basically still in the Bronze Age, were never conducive to an American victory. Bush’s goal to destroy the Taliban and deny al-Qaeda of a safe haven to launch terrorist attacks against the United States was what was expected from the president. He rose to the occasion.

That was then and this is now. Joe Biden ordered troops out of Afghanistan and then accelerated the pace of the withdrawal. The date for withdrawal to be complete is August 31. During his administration, Laura Bush took particular interest in being a supporter of Afghan women and children, working to bring more freedom to the women and provide opportunities for the education of children, especially girls. Girls were largely denied education in Afghanistan. It is to be expected that Bush would now speak out about his concern as the troops withdraw.

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

The 43rd president went on to say that he believes the U.S. withdrawal is a mistake and that “the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.”

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

It is heartbreaking but it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if history is any indication of what will come now. The situation on the ground is already deteriorating. Things will get back to pre-war days in no time. Speaking with the German news media, Bush praised Angela Merkel for her support of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, saying that Merkel “saw the progress that could be made for young women and girls.” There was progress. The United States built schools and Afghanistan women were supported by learning to become small business entrepreneurs to help support their families. Yet, there is no indication that this kind of progress will continue once the Americans leave.

That has been the conundrum all along – how do we get out? As predicted, the Taliban has taken power back and will control the country once again. Biden is in denial of a complete Taliban takeover but it is already happening.

The president has denied that a Taliban takeover of Kabul is inevitable, but stressed that it’s up to the Afghan people — not the U.S. — to decide their future. Biden has previously said that while he will continue to speak up for women’s rights in Afghanistan, that is not why the U.S. military was sent there.

“Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us, and the current security situation confirms, that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely,” Biden said last week.

A greater concern now is getting the Afghan interpreters and others who assisted American troops out of the country for safety. So far Biden has fallen down on the job of helping those who helped us. Army General Austin Miller stepped down from his command in Kabul on Monday. He led the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan since 2018. It was the symbolic moment of the end of the U.S. military involvement. He turned it over to Marine General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command in Florida. He is authorized to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban through August 31.

So, here we are and George W. has decided to speak up for his own legacy. He began his retirement from the presidency by doing as tradition had been – former presidents don’t publicly criticize sitting presidents. That tradition frayed under Obama who frequently criticized Trump, as did Michelle Obama, and also the Bushes. George W. made a point of saying he didn’t vote for Trump. His father, also a former president, said he voted for Hillary in 2016. So, it’s interesting to see George W. finding his way back into Republican territory if only to defend his own time in office.