Former US president George W. Bush on Wednesday criticised the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and said civilians were being left to be “slaughtered" by the Taliban.
“I’m afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm… They are going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people and it breaks my heart," Bush told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Asked whether he thought the withdrawal was a mistake, Bush replied: “Yes, I think it is."
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Afghan women and they’re scared. And I think about all the interpreters and people that help not only US troops but NATO troops," he said.
The former Republican president, who sent troops to Afghanistan in autumn 2001 after the September 11 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, said he believed German Chancellor Angela Merkel “feels the same way".
Bush said Merkel, who is set to retire from politics later this year after 16 years in power, had brought “class and dignity to a very important position and made very hard decisions".
He recalled talking to Merkel about her childhood in the former East Germany.
He said it was “amazing" to speak to someone who had been “trapped in a closed society" when they were young but had gone on to become “chancellor of a democratic free country".
US and NATO forces began withdrawing from Afghanistan in early May and are due to completely pull out by September 11, almost 20 years after they arrived.
Most of the 2,500 US and 7,500 NATO troops who were in Afghanistan when US President Joe Biden detailed the final withdrawal in April have now gone, leaving Afghan troops to fight an emboldened Taliban seemingly bent on a military victory.
The country is facing a crisis as the insurgents snap up territory across the countryside, stretching government forces and forcing many to flee their homes.
The United Nations said on Sunday the rising conflict is causing “more suffering" across the violence-wracked country as it called for continuous financial aid.
Biden has insisted, however, that it is time for US involvement in the war to end and for Afghans to chart their own future.