Ambassador says al Qaeda still a threat in Afghanistan

Con Coughlin:
Ryan Crocker 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.
I suspect that Yemen probably has a greater concentration of al Qaeda fighters at this point.  They have been able to mass their forces there and attack and defeat government forces.  That is something they cannot do in Afghanistan.  It is possible al Qaeda to reemerge as a strong force within Afghanistan, with its illiterate population of religious bigots.   Crocker and Obama are going to have to do a better job of persuading voters in the US that the Afghans are worth the effort and that we can tame that savage land.  I am not sure that Obama will spend any political capitol on making the case.


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