The US is currently in the process of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, per a February agreement signed last year.
Former US President George W. Bush, who led the United States into a twenty-year deadly war in Afghanistan, has described the current foreign troop withdrawal as “a mistake” that puts the safety of Afghan women at risk.
“They’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people [the Taliban], and it breaks my heart,” Bush told Germany’s Deutsche Welle [DW] in an exclusive interview aired on Wednesday.
The US invasion of Afghanistan, which let hundreds of thousands dead and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, was launched on Bush’s orders in 2001 following the deadly September 11 attacks.
Responding to the former president’s comments, Kabul-based journalist Ali Latifi took aim at his apparent double standards.
“I think it’s very interesting that he’s suddenly, you know, concerned about women and children,” he told the German broadcaster.
“His [Bush’s] war made a lot of widows and made a lot of children orphans,” Latifi added.
US war crimes
According to US figures, the brutal military intervention has killed more than 241,000 deaths casualties, of which 71,344 were civilians.
Between 2003 and 2004, Human Rights Watch [HRW] found that the US was complicit in war crimes in Afghanistan with American forces indiscriminately detaining innocent civilians who were not connected to hostilities taking place in the country.
Some civilians also told HRW that they were subjected to house raids.
Last year, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court [ICC] in The Hague announced it would proceed with the investigation into war crimes committed by the US in Afghanistan.
The court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda said that the US armed forces and the CIA perpetrated some of the war crimes in the country, prompting former US President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on court officials involved in the probe.
The order enables Washington to freeze all assets belonging to the ICC employees and ban them from entering the country.
However, the Bush administration, which launched the invasion, has also been accused of complicity in war crimes in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
The US at the time said it engaged in the the war to destroy alleged ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ held by then leader Saddam Hussein.
However, there were no such weapons found in the country and Iraqi civilians paid the exorbitant cost of the Bush administration’s crimes.
The exact number civilian casualties in Iraq remains disputed, with the country’s health ministry saying at least 151,000 were killed between 2003 and 2006. UNICEF said 4-5 million children were made orphans since the US invasion.
A report titled “Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States Post-9/11 Wars,” by the Watson institute also showed there were 9.2 million people displaced in Iraq following the war, with displacements rising sharply from 21 million in 2019.
The war-torn country is still reeling from widespread human rights abuses, especially those that were uncovered at the US-run Abu Ghraib prison.
In 2004, photos showing horrifying torture by US forces in Iraq surfaced on the media, showing naked prisoners stacked on top of one another, being attacked by dogs, electrocuted and forced to stand in humiliating positions.
The US troop withdrawal goes back to February last year, when Washington officials under the former Trump administration and the Taliban met face-to-face in Qatar to reach an agreement that would pave the way for peace in Afghanistan after decades of war.
The historical accord signed between the US and the insurgent group stipulated that foreign forces would be pulled out of the country by 1 May this year on the condition that the Taliban stops its violence in Kabul.
However, US President Joe Biden announced his decision to withdraw all forces by 11 September instead – without any conditions. The Central Command [CENTCOM] says the process is now 90% complete and would be finalised by the end of August.
Last week, Biden said that the country will not resume its intervention in Afghanistan, noting the US has “achieved the objectives” laid out during Bush’s term of fighting “the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 and to deliver justice to Osama Bin Laden, and to degrade the terrorist threat”.
“We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build. And it’s the right and the responsibility of the Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country,” said Biden.
Since the announcement of the new deadline, the country has witnessed heightened security concerns as the Taliban gains control of more territories, including the strategic the Afghan-Pakistan border crossing of Spin Boldak.
On Thursday, a senior government official said Afghan forces managed to reclaim the crossing, though this was disputed by the Taliban.
The official also told Reuters that Afghan forces were able to retake the main market, the customs department and other government installations in the Kandahar province, where the crossing is located.
Thousands of Afghans have now been forced to flee the country.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan [UNAMA] notes up to 7,792 children were killed and 18,662 injured in the past decade alone, in addition to more than 3,000 deaths recorded among women, according to Al Jazeera.
The UN’s refugee agency also warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis, noting 270,000 Afghans are estimated to have been newly internally displaced since January – raising the total number of Afghans forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.
Furthermore, civilian casualties had increased by 29% during the first quarter of this year compared with 2020.
The WHO’s regional emergencies director Rick Brennan said up to 18.4 million people in Afghanistan now require humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition.
“The fact that the Taliban is still able to pose a threat to the government and to security forces, the fact that we’re still having these battles and the fact that we’re still asking what might happen to women, to children, to interpreters, you know, 20 years down the line — that is the legacy,” Latifi told Reuters, commenting on the aftermath of the troop pull out.
Germany and Italy announced the complete withdrawal of its forces from the country in late June.
The US is also planning on keeping 650 troops to protect Kabul’s airport and Washington’s embassy in the country. Around 100 British troops will also remain in Afghanistan to support the American consulate.