Ex-CIA chief David Petraeus warned that the decision by President Joseph Biden’s administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan may, in view of the current situation, plunge Afghanistan into a civil war.
Speaking at an online conference organized by the Middle East Institute, Petraeus said "we accomplished the mission that took us to Afghanistan in the first place and that actually kept us there afterward," saying "this was about eliminating the sanctuary in which Al Qaeda planned the 9/11 attacks and conducted the initial training of those attackers."
But his thoughts on the future were dire:
“To draw down our forces the way we have in Afghanistan ... I fear that it will usher back in a kind of very violent civil war that will result in millions of refugees, terrible loss of life and bloodshed, the targeting of those who helped us during our time in the country, and a variety of other challenges which will undoubtedly include the ability of Al-Qaeda and perhaps Islamic State (Daesh) to reestablish sanctuaries,” said Petraeus.
During the forum, Petraeus said that several years back there was a "sustainable commitment" of US troops in Afghanistan, and he noted that the US presence in Afghanistan provided a platform for regional counterterrorism efforts, such as operations in Pakistan.
Taking stock of the past twenty years, Petraeus mentioned poor governance, large-scale corruption and political disunity were challenges that arose, and he acknowledged that the inconsistency of US policy was also a problem.
“There were missteps on the battlefield, there were certainly numerable cases of inadequate governing--all the way from the local to the national level, persuasive corruption was a huge issue over the years,” said Petraeus. “Political disunity has been an enormous frustration,” he said.
Petraeus also mentioned the sanctuaries that the Taliban have in Pakistan as a major factor, saying: “Their sanctuaries in Pakistan, there is a reason the Taliban leadership is called the Quetta Shura, because it is located outside Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province in Pakistan, there is a reason that there is a Peshawar Shura again, and also the Haqqani network.”
Critics have consistently voiced concerns that the hasty withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan could trigger a new civil war in the country.