‘Our Hearts Are Heavy’: Former US President Bush Expresses ‘Deep Sadness’ Over Taliban Takeover
© AP Photo / Gerald HerbertFormer President George W. Bush listens to speakers during the opening ceremony of the Walker Cup golf tournament, which starts tomorrow, at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Fla., Friday, May 7, 2021. The tournament was founded by George Herbert Walker, the United States Golf Association president in 1920, who was the great-grandfather of Bush.
© AP Photo / Gerald Herbert
Under the orders of former US President George W. Bush, American forces invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 on the grounds of eradicating al-Qaeda, capturing Osama bin Laden, and removing the Taliban from power after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The invasion marked the start of the US’ “War on Terror.”
Former US President George W. Bush has weighed in on the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan, noting in a recent statement that he feels “deep sadness” over the weekend developments in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Bush, who ordered the 2001 US-led invasion that pushed the Taliban from power, took the opportunity in his late Monday statement to both defend his decision to sign off on the military occupation of Afghan territory, as well as offer his assistance to Afghans still remaining in the Central Asian nation.
“Laura and I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness,” Bush said, referring to his wife of 43 years. “Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much, and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much.”
“The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” he continued, adding that both he and his wife are “confident that the evacuation efforts will be effective because they are being carried out by the remarkable men and women of the United States Armed Forces, diplomatic corps, and intelligence community.”
“Many of you deal with wounds of war, both visible and invisible. And some of your brothers and sisters in arms made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror,” the former president admitted, touching on the thousands of US service members who died as a result of the occupation.
“You took out a brutal enemy and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care. You kept America safe from further terror attacks, provided two decades of security and opportunity for millions, and made America proud.”
The two-term commander-in-chief went on to state that he along with the former first lady would “stand ready as Americans to lend our support and assistance,” calling on all to “resolve to be united in saving lives and praying for the people of Afghanistan.”
Bush’s comments came after the former president told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle in July that he was “sad” and “scared” about the events unfolding in Afghanistan, especially in regards to the treatment of Afghan women.
The invasion of Afghanistan, which began after Afghan leaders refused to turn over Osama bin Laden and end the use of al-Qaeda training camps, marked the US’ longest war to date and saw more than 110,000 US troops stationed within the country at the height of the occupation.
© AP Photo / Rahmat GulTaliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.
© AP Photo / Rahmat Gul
It also became one of the deadliest occupations after exchanges prompted the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, journalists, aid workers, US and allied service members and Afghan security forces.
Although the US launched its operation shortly after the 9/11 attacks and swiftly managed to gain control after Taliban officials fled into the mountainous landscape, the militant group eventually managed to regroup after US attention was diverted to the invasion on Iraq. It finally succeeded in regaining control of Kabul on Sunday, nearly 18 years later.
While withdrawal efforts had previously been hinted at under past administrations, it was ultimately the Trump White House that brokered a deal to begin the pullout of US troops with a May 1 deadline that was later delayed by US President Joe Biden.
However, a troop withdrawal does not necessarily mean that the US intends to fully part ways with Afghanistan. In fact, Biden noted in his Monday speech that he envisions an American presence in the region “narrowly focused on counterterrorism” that would be similar to the ongoing drone offensive in Somalia.