George W. Bush has urged the U.S. to help Afghan refugees without delay after the Taliban swiftly regained power in Afghanistan, two decades after the former president led the invasion into the country following the September 11 attacks.

President Joe Biden on Monday called the plight of trapped Afghan civilians "gut-wrenching," but stood by the decision to withdraw U.S. troops and end America's longest war.

Critics have implored the White House to do more to rescue fleeing Afghans, especially those who had helped the U.S during the 20-year campaign.

In a statement, Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, said the U.S. "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."

Here is their full statement:

Laura and I have been watching the tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan with deep sadness. 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.

The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation. President Biden has promised to evacuate these Afghans, along with American citizens and our 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.

Laura and I are confident that the evacuation efforts will be effective because they are being carried out by the remarkable men and women of the United States Armed Forces, diplomatic corps, and intelligence community. And we want to speak to them directly, along with the veterans who have 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. You took out a brutal enemy and denied Al Qaeda a safe haven while building schools, sending supplies, and providing medical care. You kept America safe from further terror attacks, provided two decades of security and opportunity for millions, and made America proud. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and will always honor your contributions.

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. Nearly 65 percent of the population is under twenty-five years old. The choices they will make for opportunity, education, and liberty will also determine Afghanistan's future. As Dr. Sakena Yacoobi of the Afghan Institute of Learning, which has opened schools for girls and women around the nation, wrote this week: "While we are afraid, we are not defeated." She added, "Ideas do not disappear so easily. One cannot kill whispers on the wind. The Taliban cannot crush a dream. We will prevail, even if it takes longer than we wanted it to."

Laura and I, along with the team at the Bush Center, stand ready as Americans to lend our support and assistance in this time of need. Let us all resolve to be united in saving lives and praying for the people of Afghanistan.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during the flag raising ceremony prior to The Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club on May 07, 2021 in Juno Beach, Florida.Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images