Former President George W. Bush warned Tuesday that President Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 could have harmful implications for women and girls if the "brutal" Taliban retakes power.
Bush made the comments in a rare post-presidential interview on NBC's "Today," weighing in on the war that's now lasted almost 20 years and began when he was the president.
"My first reaction was, wow, these girls are going to have real trouble with the Taliban," Bush said. "A lot of gains have been made, and so I'm deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in that country."
He added: "I think the administration hopes that the girls are going be OK through diplomacy. We'll find out. All I know is the Taliban, when they had the run of the place, they were brutal."
Biden's move to take out all American troops technically extended a previous deadline for May 1 set by former President Trump. But it also amounted to a commitment from the new president to end the long-running war when there were some doubts about whether he would do so.
The decision was lauded by Democrats, who said it was long overdue.
"[A]fter sinking two decades of blood and treasure into wars in the Middle East, it is time to bring our troops home," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. "America does not need to fight forever wars."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, said the move would put the shaky Afghan government at risk and help the Taliban.
"Apparently, we're to help our adversaries ring in the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by gift-wrapping the country and handing it right back to them," McConnell said.
"The Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield and the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay," McConnell added, quoting an assessment by the Biden administration's intelligence community.
Bush Tuesday reflected that the war his administration first oversaw is potentially drawing to a close.
"Time flies," he said.
Bush in his "Today" interview also spoke about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, saying it made him "ill," and asked people to have faith that a fair trial is being conducted in the Derek Chauvin case.
He also oversaw a naturalization ceremony for new Americans, as he promoted his new book that consists of paintings of immigrants and the stories of how they've contributed to the United States.
Bush said he wants American immigration policy to make it easier for people to enter legally through "border enforcement with a compassionate touch."
"You can't have a country that has open borders," he added.