Afghan war is still only halfway, says general

The US began the war in Afghanistan with a "frighteningly simplistic" view of the country and even 10 years later lacks knowledge that could bring the conflict to a successful end, the former top commander for the country has said.

Stanley McChrystal, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that the US and its Nato allies are only "a little better than" half of the way to reaching their war goals. Of the tasks ahead, he said the most difficult may be to create a legitimate government that Afghans can believe in and that can serve as a counterweight to the Taliban.

General McChrystal commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2009-10. He was forced to resign over comments he made about senior regime officials in a magazine article.

He said on Thursday that the US entered Afghanistan in October 2001 with too little knowledge of Afghan culture. "We didn't know enough and we still don't know enough," he said. "Most of us had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years."

General McChrystal added that the decision to invade Iraq less than two years after entering Afghanistan made the Afghan effort more difficult because it "changed the Muslim world's view of America's effort".