Former President George W. Bush is speaking out on the government’s collapse in Afghanistan, expressing his sadness over the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country.

Bush and former first lady Laura Bush said in a joint statement issued late Monday that their hearts are heavy for Afghan civilians, Americans and NATO allies.

“Laura and I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness,” the former president said. “Our hearts are heavy for both the Afghan people who have suffered so much and for the Americans and NATO allies who have sacrificed so much.”

He said that the Afghans “now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” noting that President Biden has promised to evacuate Afghan civilians, American citizens and allies.

“The United States government has the legal authority to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises. And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay. Our most stalwart allies, along with private NGOs, are ready to help,” the former president added.

Biden, also late on Monday, allocated $500 million in additional funds for relocating Afghan refugees, including applicants for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).

The war in Afghanistan began under the George W. Bush administration following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Taliban swiftly took over Kabul on Sunday, leaving Americans and Afghan civilians desperately trying to escape the country.

In the new statement, the former president expressed his confidence in the U.S. military to carry out evaluation efforts and said that he would like to speak directly with them and veterans who served in Afghanistan.

“Many of you deal with wounds of war, both visible and invisible. And some of your brothers and sisters in arms made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. Each day, we have been humbled by your commitment and your courage,” he said.

Bush also praised the U.S. military’s work over the last two decades to deny al Qaeda a safe haven, build schools and provide supplies and medical care in Afghanistan.

“In times like these, it can be hard to remain optimistic. Laura and I will steadfastly remain so. Like our country, Afghanistan is also made up of resilient, vibrant people,” he said, noting that nearly 65 percent of the Afghan population is under 25 years old.

The former president stressed that he and the former first lady are ready to support and assist in the situation.

In July, Bush warned of the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, saying he’d seen the progress made by Afghan women and girls.

“Laura and I spend a lot of time with Afghan women, and they’re scared. And I think about all the interpreters and all the people that helped not just U.S. troops but NATO troops and it seems like they’re just going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. It breaks my heart,” Bush said in an interview with DW, a German news network.

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