Ryan Crocker (American ambassador to Kabul) told The Daily Telegraph that if the West was to leave Afghanistan too early, al-Qaeda would be able to increase its presence.
With the US preparing to withdraw the majority of its combat forces from Afghanistan next year, Mr Crocker warned: “If we decide we’re tired, they’ll be back.”
“Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. If the West decides that 10 years in Afghanistan is too long then they will be back, and the next time it will not be New York or Washington, it will be another big Western city.”
Mr Crocker, 62, who previously served as ambassador to Iraq, said that while progress had been made, Afghanistan would need Western support for years to come.
Nato officials believe that up to 100 al-Qaeda fighters have returned to the country, based mainly in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces near the border with Pakistan. Hundreds more are based in Pakistan and could return if circumstances were to change.
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