Doug Bedell — April 2, 2012, 11:26 am

Al-Qaeda Still in Afghanistan

Should this be surprising? Al-Qaeda is still in Afghanistan, says the U.S. ambassador there. This stubborn security reality highlights pressures on the U.S. to leave Afghanistan sooner than later.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker thinks an early American exit, after 10 years in Afghanistan, would be a mistake. “If we decide we’re tired,” he told The Daily Telegraph, “they’ll be back.”

The ambassador added that, while progress has been made there, Afghanistan would need Western support for years to come. Even so, notes the British paper, the U.S. “is preparing to withdraw the majority of its combat forces from Afghanistan next year.”

“NATO officials,” it adds, “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.”

“Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan,” says Ambassador Crocker. “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.”

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