Chicago: al Qaeda is likely to re-emerge in Afghanistan to threaten Western nations after NATO troops leave the war-torn country by 2014, `` time, alliance officials have admitted.
A senior US general also warned that NATO forces would face combat with the Taliban until the very last day of the alliance mission in Afghanistan.
The assessments of Afghanistan and its prospects emerged even as NATO leaders met at a summit in Chicago and outlined plans to withdraw their forces by the end of 2014.
They conceded the possibility of al Qaeda and other groups returning after the West’s withdrawal.
“It is unrealistic to assume that Afghanistan is going to be completely secure and there is no possibility of a terrorist threat reemerging,” The Telegraph quoted a senior British official, as saying.
“But our achievements of the last decade mean that we will withdraw from a country where the threat is much reduced and where Afghan forces are now much more able to respond to that threat,” he added.
According to the paper, the potential return of al Qaeda has prompted British officials to draw up plans to keep up to 200 British Special Forces soldiers in Afghanistan for counter-terrorism missions after 2014.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has yet to approve those plans, officials said.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama declared that the Afghan war was now “effectively over”, while Cameron said the handover plan was “on track and on target”.