Former First Lady Laura Bush applauded President Obama for deciding not to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Bush called on the entire “international community” to continue doing everything possible to support women in Afghanistan and help the Afghan people build an economy.
“I also was heartened that President Obama chose to keep our troops there. I think we need to keep the troops there. We need to make sure that Afghanistan has the security to be able to build the stability to form their government and continue to work on what they are working on,” she said during a discussion on Afghan Women’s Leadership for Peace at the United States Institutes of Peace.
Bush said the new first lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani has been very effective.
“She’s helping to build a women’s university with women professors so when the traditional fathers don’t want their daughters to go to university because of going with men or having men professors, that there be an option for women. And I think that’s a good way that Americans could support her and that is to try to help in that way as she builds this women’s university,” she said.
Bush said security remains the most important issue facing Afghanistan right now.
“Our troops can help with that,” she said.
Mina Sherzoy, a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, agreed with Bush.
“Without security you cannot move forward. Everything starts collapsing around you and we don’t want the international community to leave,” she said. “You just don’t want to leave a country in chaos when it’s in chaos and that shows the failure of the international community.”
Sherzoy’s contributions to Afghan society are included in the George W. Bush Institute’s new book We Are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope.
Sherzoy suggested the international community prioritize funding for development over the military in Afghanistan.
“I’m sorry. It’s just if we have capable people and if people have food on the table and they have jobs, why would they need the military? This is a question for me because I’m not a politician but I’m an activist,” she said.
Sherzoy acknowledged the need for further training of the Afghan police and military, but “if you have good citizens and if you don’t have hungry citizens who can be bought by your neighbors or any politician or anybody, I mean, you will have a stable country.”