Pope inadvertently quotes Putin to chide West’s Afghan war
MADRID — Pope Francis has criticized the West’s two-decade-long involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy — although he did it by citing Russian President Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Asked during a radio interview aired Wednesday about the new political map taking shape in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies withdrew from the Taliban-controlled country following 20 years of war, the pope said he would answer with a quote that he attributed to Merkel, whom he described as “one of the world’s greatest political figures.”
“It is necessary to put an end to the irresponsible policy of intervening from outside and building democracy in other countries, ignoring the traditions of the peoples,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish. But the words were spoken last month by Putin in the presence of Merkel, during her visit to Moscow. During the meeting on Aug. 20, Putin scathingly criticized the West over Afghanistan, saying that the Taliban’s rapid sweep over the country has shown the futility of Western attempts to enforce its own vision of democracy. At a news conference with
Putin, Merkel conceded that the operation had failed in delivering a clear future for Afghans.
“We did not want to force any system on Afghanistan,” Merkel told reporters. “But we saw that millions of girls were glad to go to school and that women could participate. There are many in Afghanistan who are very, very unhappy about developments now.”
Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, refused to comment directly on the pope’s comments when asked on Wednesday, but he added that Merkel’s position on Afghanistan was well known and repeated during a recent speech to the German parliament.
The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the pope’s interview with Spain’s Cadena COPE, which took place Friday at his residence. The radio station aired the talk on Wednesday and said that its content had been vetted by the pope himself.