President who started 20-year war in Afghanistan says troops leaving 'breaks my heart'


Former President George W. Bush sent the first U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2001.

Former President George W. Bush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in an interview published on July 14 that the exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan after 20 years is a mistake.

Asked by journalist Ines Pohl, "Is it a mistake, the withdrawal?" Bush, who sent U.S. troops to the country in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, said:

You know, I think it is, yeah, because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad and sad. I spent a lot — Laura and I spent a lot of time with Afghan women, and they're scared. I think about all the interpreters and people that helped not only U.S. troops, but NATO troops, and they're just — it seems like they're just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people, and it breaks my heart.

Bush ordered 1,300 troops to Afghanistan in 2001 under a joint resolution of Congress authorizing "the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States." Bush said, on Oct. 7 of that year, announcing the start of military operations:

On my orders, the United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime. ... By destroying camps and disrupting communications, we will make it more difficult for the terror network to train new recruits and coordinate their evil plans.

Even after terrorist leaders were killed or sent into hiding, U.S. troops remained in the country. According to current data produced by the Watson Institute at Brown University, in the 20 years the war has lasted, between 238,000 and 241,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including 2,442 U.S. troops. The U.S. has spent over $2 trillion on the war over the course of the 20 years.

Former President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in 2020, despite protests from Pentagon officials that the absence of U.S. troops could allow the Taliban to regain its strongholds and topple the country's government. President Joe Biden has kept to Trump's decision and announced his plans for troop withdrawal in April.

"I spoke yesterday with President Bush to inform him of my decision," Biden said. "While he and I have had many disagreements over policies throughout the years, we're absolutely united in our respect and support for the valor, courage, and integrity of the women and men of the United States Armed Forces who served."

Biden has pledged to relocate the interpreters, lawyers, teachers, and other contractors who worked alongside U.S. and NATO troops for 20 years, before the U.S. military mission officially ends on August 31.

"Our message to those women and men is clear. There is a home for you in the United States. … We will stand with you, just as you stood with us," Biden said, according to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

Flights will begin in late July, and the Biden administration will help Afghans who assisted the U.S. mission obtain special immigrant visas for U.S. residency, the Associated Press reported on July 14.

Meanwhile, the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban has begun making inroads in recapturing territory across Afghanistan. NBC reported in June that Taliban forces had taken control of twice as much of the country as they had held two months prior.

CNN released footage on July 14 showing Taliban members executing 22 Afghan commandos as they tried to surrender in June.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.