LONDON: The former head of the British armed forces has admitted that no one involved in operations in Afghanistan had a “true understanding” of the politics of the country. Gen. Sir Nick Carter also described the withdrawal from the country and the collapse of its Western-backed government as “shocking.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said it is “probably still true” that the majority of Afghans would not support the Taliban.
Discussing the calamitous end in August of NATO’s two-decade campaign in Afghanistan, Carter said: “I think at the end of the day it comes down to politics, the local politics in Afghanistan, and I don’t think there was ever a true understanding of the political dynamics on the ground, and therefore the ability to be able to rationalize that.”
Speaking of the chaotic scenes during the evacuation effort in Kabul, he said that “they were shocking moments for all of us.
“And of course you think of so many people in times like that. You think of all of those who’ve committed their lives to the cause over the last 20 years, you think of the Afghan people, and of course you wonder how it ended like that — because we thought we had a good plan, we were going to deliver something at the end of all of that. It was a true shock, I think, to most of us who’d been involved.”
Carter served as chief of the defense staff until the end of November. He said the West must now engage with the Taliban to prevent a devastating humanitarian crisis.
“I also think it’s important that we engage because we might be able to encourage them to govern in a different way,” he added. “And the fact that they are governing in an utterly uninclusive way is something that we need to worry about.”
Carter also defended his upbeat assessments of the military situation shortly before a number of important Afghan cities fell to the Taliban, saying that he had been positive in an effort to avoid undermining former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration.