ROME – In a new interview, Pope Francis appears to criticize the handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan by the United States that triggered scenes of chaos and violence at the Kabul airport, saying that while “I don’t want to judge” nevertheless “they didn’t take into account all the eventualities.”
In a brief fragment of the interview released today, the pope does not mention the United States or any other nation by name.
The remarks come in a 40-second excerpt released by the Spanish broadcaster Cope, ahead of the full 90-minute conversation Wednesday. In that longer exchange the pope is expected to address many issues, from his health and rumors of his resignation to the legalization of euthanasia in Spain earlier this year.
Cope journalist Carlos Herrera, who said he was able to secure the interview with the help of the radio’s Vatican correspondent Eva Fernandez, shared a 40-second fragment on his show this Tuesday in an attempt to lure listeners for the full interview.
“The new political map facing Afghanistan. Can the Vatican pull diplomatic strings to try not to retaliate against the population and so many other things?” Herrera asks Francis, to which the pope responds: “Yes, in fact, I’m sure the Secretary of State is doing that.”
The Vatican’s Secretary of State is Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a veteran diplomat. Afghanistan is one of just a handful of nations around the world not to have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and the lone Catholic church in the country is in the Italian embassy in Kabul.
On the withdrawal, the pontiff apparently is critical.
“The way you negotiate a withdrawal, an exit, from what we’ve seen here, they didn’t take into account, it seems, I don’t want to judge, [but] they didn’t take into account all the eventualities,” the pope said.
On Thursday, a terrorist attack in the airport of Kabul left at least 170 deaths, including 13 members of the United States army. The ongoing crisis began to unravel mid-August, after the U.S. began the withdrawal of its troops, that concluded at midnight on Aug. 30. Francis referred to the attack at the end of his Sunday Angelus, asking for “everyone, to intensify your prayer and practice fasting.”
“I ask everyone to continue to help the needy and to pray that dialogue and solidarity may lead to the establishment of a peaceful and fraternal coexistence and offer hope for the country’s future,” he had said during the Angelus. “In historic moments like this one we cannot remain indifferent; the history of the Church teaches us this.”
On a different front, when pressed by Herrera about rumors of his resignation in the wake of his recent colon surgery, Francis jokingly replied: “Whenever a pope is sick, there’s a breeze or hurricane of conclave,” referring to the process through which popes are elected.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma