The Latest: Putin says US achieved ‘zero’ in Afghanistan

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan, charging that its 20-year military presence in the country has achieved “zero.”

Putin said Wednesday that for 20 years the U.S. military in Afghanistan “was trying … to civilize the people who live there, to introduce their norms and standards of life in the broadest sense of the word, including the political organization of society.”

“The result is sheer tragedies, sheer losses, both for those who were doing that — the U.S. — and more so for the people who live in Afghanistan. A zero result, if not negative,” Putin said.

The Russian president added that “it’s impossible to impose something from outside” and that “if someone does something to someone, they should draw on the history, the culture, the life philosophy of these people in the broadest sense of the word, they should treat their traditions with respect.”

Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback in the country as a mediator over the past few years. Russia has reached out to the feuding Afghan factions, including the Taliban — even though it has labeled them a terrorist organization.



— Biden defends departure from ‘forever war,’ praises airlift

— UN chief urges countries to help Afghans in ‘hour of need’

— Victorious Taliban focus on governing after US withdrawal

— New Taliban rulers face tough economic, security challenges

— Analysis: War is over but not Biden’s Afghanistan challenges


— Find more AP coverage at



MADRID — Pope Francis has criticized the West’s recent involvement in Afghanistan as an outsider’s attempt to impose democracy — although he’s done so by citing Russia’s Vladimir Putin while thinking he was quoting Germany’s Angela Merkel.

In a radio interview aired Wednesday, Pope Francis was asked 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 said he would answer using a quote that he attributed to the German chancellor, who he described as “one of the world’s greatest political figures.”

“It’s necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing its own values on others and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people’s traditions,” the pope said, using his own translation into Spanish.

But the quote was pronounced last month by the Russian president in the presence of Merkel, during her visit of the German to Moscow.

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

The interview with Spain’s Cadena COPE took place at the Vatican late last week. The radio station owned by Spain’s Catholic bishops’ conference aired the talk on Wednesday and said that its content had been vetted by the pope himself.

Francis also said there that “all eventualities were not taken into account” in the departure of Western allies from Afghanistan.

“I don’t know if there will be any revision (of what happened during the withdrawal), but there was much deceiving from the new authorities (of Afghanistan),” said the Pope. “Either that or just too much ingenuity. Otherwise, I don’t understand.”

Francis called for Christians across the world to engage in “prayer, penance and fasting” in the face of events in Afghanistan.


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reflected on the Afghanistan war’s end and delivered an emotional tribute Tuesday to the 13 service members killed by a suicide bombing last week.

Gen. Mark Milley said the military’s counterterrorism efforts over the past 20 years and the evacuation of 124,000 people from Afghanistan in the last 20 days are the legacy of U.S. service members.

In his words, “We’re now closing a chapter in our nation’s history.”

Milley said the 11 Marines, one soldier and one Navy corpsman who died in the suicide bombing “gave their tomorrows for the tomorrows of 124,000 people.”

His comments came during the retirement ceremony for Gen. Robert Abrams, who most recently commanded U.S. Forces Korea. Both men commanded troops in Afghanistan.

Milley called it “an incredibly emotional day,” adding: “All of us are conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience. But one thing I am certain of, for any soldier, sailor, airman or Marine and their families, your service mattered. It was not in vain.”


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden says he chose to end the war in Afghanistan in order to focus the nation’s defenses on other security problems, including China and Russia.

Addressing the nation Tuesday from the White House on the day after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan, ending a 20-year war, Biden said he will sharpen the focus of U.S. foreign policy by concentrating on threats such as cyberattack and the proliferation of nuclear weapon technologies.

He vows to continue counterterrorism operations, including against any threats emanating from Afghanistan. He says this can be done with forces based outside of Afghanistan.

The president also mentioned the Islamic State extremist group’s Afghanistan affiliate, which conducted a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Aug. 26 that killed 13 American service members and dozens of Afghan civilians. Biden said, “We are not done with you yet.”

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