New Delhi: Waring against the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan the ex-commander of coalition forces, General David Petraeus, said that it is a mistake that the US “will come to regret” as without the assurance of American support, Afghan forces would do “what some have already done — desert their posts, flee the Taliban or surrender”.
Petraeus, who served as the US central command in the war-ravaged country in 2011 and has also been a former director of the CIA, said that Kabul’s journey in the absence of American forces and thousands of contractors would likely be a painful one.
“I fear the decision to withdraw has consigned Afghanistan to a bloody civil war, and is likely to produce millions of refugees, cause damage to infrastructure and foist an ultra-conservative theocratic regime over much of the country that curtails the rights of women, democratic processes and human rights,” he said.
While current governmental structures and leaders aren’t without flaws, a Taliban regime will be incomparably worse, he warned. “Frankly,” he said, “I would have thought that a sustained and sustainable US commitment in terms of ‘blood and treasure’ expended would have been preferable to what will follow our withdrawal.”
On security implications for US in the event of Afghanistan descending into chaos, Petraeus said, “I expect we will see al-Qaida and the IS affiliate in the Af-Pak region, the Khorasan Group, seek to establish sanctuaries in Taliban-controlled territory — just as al-Qaida established its sanctuary in eastern Afghanistan, when most of the country was under Taliban control in the late 1990s, and planned the 9/11 attacks.”
He said he didn’t expect either Al-Qaida or IS to “pose a significant threat to the US homeland in the near-term, because of how much our operations have degraded their capabilities and improvements in US intelligence”. Petraeus said US and coalition intelligence would “work very hard, albeit with many assets having to work from over the horizon”, to identify new al-Qaida and IS sanctuaries in Afghanistan.
He had a word of caution for India. “The American withdrawal, and the likely strife with the Taliban/Haqqani network taking control of more areas, will make it difficult for India to carry out diplomatic activity, development and other assistance.”
On other countries eyeing Afghanistan, he said, “It’s not clear how inclined the Taliban will be to appear accommodating to Pakistan. China would like to pursue extractive industries in Afghanistan, security permitting.” The one country to lose some ground could be Pakistan, he said. “I suspect US dependence on Pakistan in the Af-Pak region will be reduced; the US will be much less dependent on ground lines of communication from the port in Pakistan. The US will seek to maintain a constructive relationship.”