Pope Francis questions Afghanistan withdrawal strategy

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Afghan citizens evacuated from Kabul disembark from a US Air Force transport plane as they arrive at Naval Station Rota Air Base in Rota, Spain, August 31, 2021.CNS photo/Jon Nazca, Reuters

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY – The chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan was due in part to a lack of foreseeing all possible eventualities, Pope Francis said in a new interview.

“The way to negotiate a withdrawal, an exit, from what we see here it seems that — I don’t want to judge — not all the eventualities were taken into account,” the Pope said in an excerpt of an interview with COPE, the radio network owned by the Spanish bishops’ conference, released August 31.

When asked if the Vatican could use its diplomatic power to discourage the new regime from waging reprisals against the people, the Pope said, “Yes, in fact, the secretary of state (Cardinal Pietro Parolin) is doing that.”

During his Sunday Angelus address August 29, the Pope appealed to all Christians to fast and intensify their prayers for Afghanistan in the wake of increased violence in the country.

“I ask everyone to continue to help the needy and to pray that dialogue and solidarity may lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal co-existence and offer hope for the country’s future,” he said, after praying the Angelus with visitors in St Peter’s Square.

He said he had been following the news out of Afghanistan “with great concern.”

“I take part in the suffering of those who are grieving for the persons who lost their lives in the suicide attacks that happened last Thursday and of those who are seeking help and protection,” he said.

The Pope was referring to the August 26 attack when a suicide bomber detonated an explosion among the crowds of people desperate to leave the country at the gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The blast killed at least 169 civilians and 13 US service members, who were set to withdraw from the country by August 31. Thousands of Afghans were seeking to be evacuated as well.

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