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Pope inadvertently quotes Putin to condemn West’s Afghan war

Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on September 1, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)
Pope Francis leaves after his weekly general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican on September 1, 2021. (Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis criticizes the West’s two-decade-long involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy — although he does it by citing Russia’s Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel.

Asked during a radio interview about the new political map taking shape in Afghanistan after the United States and its allies withdrew from the Taliban-controlled country after 20 years of war, the pope says he would answer with a quote that he attributed to the German chancellor, whom he describes 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 says, using his own translation into Spanish.

But the words were spoken last month by the Russian president in the presence of Merkel, during her visit to Moscow.

During the meeting on August 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. Merkel, meanwhile, urged Russia to use its contacts with the Taliban to press for Afghan citizens who helped Germany to be allowed to leave Afghanistan.

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