The United States must ensure Afghan women are not forgotten, as America moves to get its troops out of Afghanistan, former President George W. Bush and the former first lady say. The presidential couple, who spoke Thursday at the second annual conference of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, a public-private partnership set up by President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2002, were interviewed afterward separately by Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
“My concern of course is that the United States gets weary of being in Afghanistan and says ‘It’s not worth it, let’s leave’ and Laura and I believe that if that were to happen, women would suffer again,” Bush said. “We don’t believe that’s in the interest of the United States, or the world, to create a safe haven for terrorists and stand by and watch women’s rights be abused.
“We’ve seen what it is like under the Taliban. Even though it was a decade ago, surely we can remember the fact that — for example — young girls couldn’t go to school and women were jailed in their own homes,” Bush told Van Susteren, after speaking at the conference, hosted this week in Dallas by the George W. Bush Institute. “If they expressed themselves publicly in a way that irritated the Taliban, they were brutalized. That is not in our interests to see that kind of behavior.
“We liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, because of providing a safe haven for al-Qaida,” he continued. “I believed then and now we have an obligation to help this young democracy in Afghanistan survive — and thrive. And one of the best and most effective ways is to empower women.”
The former first lady said when the spotlight turned to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, “everyone in the United States . . . [was] shocked by the way Afghan women were treated.”
“They were not allowed to leave their homes. Many were widows from the years of conflict that had preceded that terrorist attack here in the United States. They couldn’t leave their homes without a male escort,” she said.
“Children weren’t allowed to fly kites. Girls were forbidden from being educated — which was really shocking I think to Americans,” she said. “Especially the idea of a government that would forbid its citizens from being educated.”
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