Former President George W. Bush warned Saturday that "the world would face serious threats" if the resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida are allowed to retake control of Afghanistan.
Bush spoke in the Indian capital as President Barack Obama tries to decide whether to commit tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan. This has been the deadliest year for international and U.S. forces there since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban, and President Hamid Karzai is embroiled in an election dispute that has badly tarnished the Afghan government's credibility.
While not directly commenting on the choice facing Obama, Bush said a peaceful, democratic Afghanistan is vital to the region.
"The mission in Afghanistan has been long and difficult and costly, but I believe it is necessary for stability and peace," he told a leadership conference in New Delhi. "If the Taliban and al-Qaida and their extremist allies were allowed to take over Afghanistan again, they would have a safe haven and the Afghan people, particularly the Afghan women, would face a return to a brutal tyranny.
"This region and the world would face serious threats," he added.
‘Passport to the world’
Bush is extremely popular in India for ending a three-decade ban on civilian nuclear trade slapped on the country after its first atomic test in 1974.
Bush called the civilian nuclear pact "India's passport to the world, a sign that India has taken its rightful place as a great nation on the global stage."
He said India and the United States are bound by their mutual heritage of freedom and democracy, and their shared struggle against extremist groups "who murder the innocent to advance a dark vision of extremism and control."
Bush also expressed support for a future seat on the U.N. Security Council for India and for the nation's important voice in global climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.
"I have confidence in the future of both our countries, because I have confidence in the values we share," he said.