Former President George W. Bush says he’s “deeply concerned” that pulling U.S. troops from Afghanistan could create a “vacuum” for terrorist groups.
In an interview with Fox News posted Thursday, Bush, who’s promoting a new book, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” said he doesn’t think a U.S. troop withdrawal there is necessary.
President Joe Biden last month set a withdrawal of the approximately 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
The pullout is up to 20% complete, The Hill reported.
“I’ve always warned that no U.S. presence in Afghanistan will create a vacuum, and into that vacuum is likely to come people who treat women as second-class citizens,” Bush told Fox News.
About 7,000 troops from NATO countries, as well as all U.S. contractors, are also leaving in conjunction with the U.S. military withdrawal.
But the withdrawal has prompted fears that without U.S. military support, the Taliban will overrun the Afghan government and women’s rights will be attacked, The Hill said.
Bush pointed to the portrait he painted of Roya Mahboob, an Afghan woman who escaped the Taliban’s harsh restrictions on Afghan women by fleeing to Iran.
Bush, who was president during the 9/11 attacks, told Fox News he spoke to Mahboob after Biden's announcement and relayed that “she is very concerned. And so, therefore, I am too.”
“And you know, was it necessary? I don't think so,” he said of the withdrawal. “But the decision has been made, and we now need to pray and hope that it is the right decision.”
In the book, Bush writes that "Roya believes that the United States and our allies helped bring 'light to the lives of millions of people who lived in darkness.'"
"As policymakers in the United States and allied countries make decisions about our future in Afghanistan, it is important to remember the stories of people like Roya and what life was like for them prior to 2001," Bush writes.
Human Rights Watch has offered a bleak assessment of women’s healthcare in Afghanistan in its latest report earlier this month, saying that even basic information on health and family planning is not available to most Afghan women. And even when women can get the care they need, the quality is often poor, the New York-based group said.
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