September 1, 2021
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis said the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was “legitimate” but backed some criticism of its involvement there with a quote he mistakenly attributed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which actually came from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Francis, 84, discussed the situation in Afghanistan in an interview broadcast on Wednesday on Spanish radio network COPE.
“The fact of renouncing (Afghanistan) is legitimate,” he said, adding, without elaborating, that Vatican diplomacy would be at work to try to prevent reprisals against people there.
But he criticised the modality of the withdrawal.
“As far as I can see, not all eventualities were taken into account here … or so it seems, I don’t want to judge. 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 (Taliban). I say deceit or a lot of naiveté, I don’t understand,” he said.
In the same section of the interview, Francis paraphrased in Spanish a quote he attributed to Merkel about how it was time to end outside interventions aimed at installing democracy while ignoring traditions and cultures.
The comment was actually from Putin, at a news conference with Merkel in Moscow on Aug. 20.
Putin said: “The irresponsible policy of imposing some external values must be stopped, as well as the aspirations to introduce democracy following the patterns of other states, without consideration of the historical, national, and religious
traits of the country, completely ignoring the traditions of other people.”
On Aug. 15, two weeks before the withdrawal, Francis called for dialogue so people could live in peace and security.
Last Sunday, on the eve of the withdraw, he called on all Christians to pray for the people of the overwhelmingly Moslem country.
(Additional reporting by Inti Landauro in Madrid; Editing by David Gregorio)
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