Retired General Stanley McChrystal says a major withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, which the White House is considering, would damage peace talks with the Taliban and shake Kabul's confidence in its alliance with the United States.
Speaking on the ABC news show “This Week,” the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said on December 30 that a significant troop reduction in Afghanistan would trade away “the biggest leverage point we have.”
“I think the great mistake in the president's leaked guidance is that just when we were starting to sit down with the Taliban, just when we were starting to begin negotiations, he basically traded away the biggest leverage point we have.
"If you tell the Taliban that we are absolutely leaving on a date...their incentives to try to cut a deal dropped dramatically,” McChrystal said.
The general’s comments come just over a week after U.S. media reported that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops currently serving in Afghanistan, which currently number about 14,000.
The Pentagon has declined to comment on the reports, but they come shortly after Trump announced that the United States would be pulling out all of its forces from Syria, a move that ignited a storm of criticism from Republican and Democratic lawmakers and former government officials.
Afghan military officials have warned such a withdrawal would pose a danger to the country's undertrained and poorly equipped forces.
McChrystal noted that it could also damage relations between the two countries at a time when U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul.
“Of course, I was worried about the confidence of the Afghan people because at the end of the day, that's what determines who wins in Afghanistan,” McChrystal said.
“And I think we probably rocked them -- we rocked them in their belief that we are allies that can be counted on,” he added.
McChrystal, a 34-year veteran of the U.S. Army, served as the head of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008 and later assumed command of all international forces in Afghanistan in June 2009.