Baltimore Sun

Pope inadverten­tly quotes Putin to chide West’s Afghan war

- By Aritz Parra and Frank Jordans

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.

 ?? TIZIANA FABI/GETTY-AFP ?? Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience Wednesday at the Vatican.
TIZIANA FABI/GETTY-AFP Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience Wednesday at the Vatican.

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