Afghanistan could slip back into civil war if it does not continue to receive support from the West following the withdrawal of most international troops this year, a former US commander in the country has warned.
General Stanley McChrystal described the prospect of renewed internal conflict as a “worst-case possibility” which could be avoided provided the Afghan government received the backing it needed from its allies.
“I don't think the Taliban have the strength to come in and take over Afghanistan and, clearly, I think the greatest danger is it would break out into violence, either in direct civil war or maybe multi-party fighting,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday.
“But that is the unnecessary outcome, in my view. There is enough capacity in that country, and certainly enough ties that bind, to avoid that. But I think that would be a worst-case possibility.”
General McChrystal, who was the architect of the US troop “surge” in 2009 but later resigned after critical comments he made about the Obama administration were published by Rolling Stone magazine, said the Afghans needed reassurance that help would be there if it was required.
“I think they do need partners as they go forward though, so I hope that a security arrangement is reached where they get some levels of support from people who have been their allies over the last decade and a half,” he said.
“What you really want is a consistency of partnership and that is to maintain in the minds of the Afghan people that we are reliable long-term partners and that is going to take enough people to do certain tasks, to provide some logistic support, to provide advice, and also to be around as a representation that they are not alone.”
General McChrystal also expressed concern about the use by the Americans of unmanned drones to target leading Taliban figures.
While he acknowledged that they could be a highly effective weapon, he said it was important to consider their impact on the local population.
“There is a perception of arrogance, there is a perception of helpless people in an area being shot at like thunderbolts from the sky by an entity that is acting as though they have omniscience and omnipotence and you can create a tremendous amount of resentment inside populations,” he said.