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Laura Bush in Afghanistan in 2008. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The longest war

The policy decision Laura Bush thanked President Obama for making

March 17, 2016

It might seem that former first lady Laura Bush and President Obama would be worlds apart on foreign policy, not to mention basically all policy. After all, Obama’s historic election in 2008 was a referendum on George W. Bush’s presidency. But the former first lady has written the foreword for a new book authored by the George W. Bush Institute, and in it she thanks Obama for a controversial decision he made last year. In mid-October, the president reversed course on his plan to remove the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan and announced that armed forces would stay there through the end of his final term in 2017. “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again,” Obama vowed at the time.

The topic and agenda of her new book, titled We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope, which was just released, hinges on that very decision, she said. “I think that’s really important — that we give them that stability that security forces there give them as they try to build their country,” she told USA Today in an interview. “I think they would have been set back,” she said about the outcome if Obama had gone through with his original plan for winding down America’s longest war. “I think it would be very, very difficult for Afghanistan, like it has been for Iraq. And I think things that have happened in Iraq would start to happen there.” Bush acknowledges that the Taliban now controls more territory in Afghanistan than the extremist group did when the war began in 2001. “That’s the very reason we need to stay engaged. If we thought they were secure, then we wouldn’t need to be there and be engaged, but they’re not.”

Bush also discussed one of the women highlighted in the new book, “a woman who talked about how she daydreamed as a child, and she daydreamed that she was going to be different from all the other women there, that she was not going to have to be like they were and never say anything and never be anywhere, and in fact she was going to be a surgeon. And she spent her childhood daydreaming. And I felt, I kind of could empathize,” Bush said, “because as an only child I did a lot of daydreaming as a child, too, and thought about what would my life be like, too. I’ll have to say I didn’t daydream what actually happened.” The woman went on to graduate from college and is now an economist, Bush, who will be a panelist at the 7th Annual Women in the World Summit next month, alongside her two daughters, revealed. She offered her story as a shining example of how American can make a positive difference in the lives of women there.

Politics came up too, naturally, and Bush was asked about whether she’d vote for Republican frontrunner Donald Trump — now that Jeb Bush is out of the race.

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Read the full interview at USA Today.


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