Pope Francis takes a jab at America’s policy in Afghanistan

Rome — In a wide-ranging radio interview that aired on Wednesday, Pope Francis called the withdrawal of the U.S. military and its allies from Afghanistan “legitimate,” but criticized the way it was carried out. 

As far as I can see, not all eventualities were taken into account here,” he told Spanish Catholic radio station COPE. “I don’t know whether there will be a review or not, but certainly there was a lot of deception, perhaps, on the part of the new authorities [of Afghanistan]. I say deceit, or a lot of naiveté — I don’t understand.”

Pope Francis speaks during an interview with Spanish radio station COPE at the Vatican City
Pope Francis and journalist Carlos Herrera talk during an interview with Spanish radio station COPE at Vatican City in this picture released September 1, 2021. COPE/Carlos Herrera

The pope framed the 20-year U.S.-led war in Afghanistan as an example of an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy. In doing so, he said he was quoting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he called “one of the great figures of world democracy.” However, he was inadvertently paraphrasing remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“‘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.’ Concise and conclusive,” the pontiff said, thinking he was quoting Merkel. “I think this says a lot; and everyone can interpret it as they wish. But there I felt a wisdom in hearing this woman say this.”

It was in fact Putin who used very similar words as he met with Merkel during a visit by the German leader to Russia on August 20.

Biden defends U.S. Afghanistan withdrawal 01:43

In the 90-minute interview, Pope Francis also revealed new details about his July 4 abdominal surgery for symptomatic diverticular stenosis, a narrowing of the colon. 

He said a male nurse from the Vatican health services “saved my life,” by encouraging him to opt for surgery instead of relying on antibiotics, as some doctors had recommended. 

“Certainly these things that are born from the diverticula… and who knows… they become deformed, necrotic… but thank God, it was taken in time, and here I am,” the pope said, revealing that he’d had about 13 inches of his colon removed. The surgery required him to be hospitalized for 11 days. 

Francis also denied recent rumors in the Italian media that he was planning to resign, saying the thought had never crossed his mind. “Whenever a pope is ill there is always a breeze or a hurricane about a conclave,” he told COPE, referring to the secret meeting when cardinals gather to elect a new pope. 

Pope Francis recovering in hospital 01:24

He said he’d recovered fully and was able to eat what he wants, as well as keep to his normal busy schedule. 

Besides an upcoming trip to Hungary and Slovakia in September, he also confirmed that he would attend the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Scotland in November, as well as travel to Greece, Cyprus and Malta in the near future.