Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, spoke to Matthew Green, the Financial Times Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent, at his headquarters in Kabul on January 19.
He called for Afghanistan's allies to demonstrate a renewed commitment to Afghanistan at a conference in London on Thursday, but gave warning that insurgents would try to make the country look like it was "on fire" in the coming year.
He outlined his campaign plan for the next 12 months, defended his counter-insurgency strategy and raised the prospect of ending the war through negotiations with Taliban leaders.
The following is an edited transcript.
FT: We've got this conference coming up. There's going to be more than 60 countries represented. At the same time there's a lot of concern about the direction the western mission is going in Afghanistan. What do you need to come out of that conference to support what you're doing?
Gen McChrystal: What I'd like to see come out of the conference is a gathering of, as you say, more than 60 nations and supporters of Afghanistan, receive a clear vision from President Karzai and his team, as they lay out different visions for the way ahead, and then different participants - me being one of them, on one line - to lay out with a fair amount for clarity what all the commitment people had made is going to translate into; what it's going to look like in terms of specific programmes for governance, co-ordination of development, and then for myself, the security line. I'm hoping that at the end of the day when we leave, with all the prep done beforehand, that everybody has a more or less common view of the situation, and a more or less common view of the way ahead.
FT: You say clearly in you're assessment that a foreign army can't win an insurgency, that there has to be improvements in governance to win over the support of the population. At the same time it's clear that there's a lot of doubts about the ability of the present government to do that. What do you need to see President Karzai doing to actually ensure your strategy can work?
Gen McChrystal: It's not so much what I have to see; it's what the Afghan people have to see. They will judge the credibility and legitimacy of the Karzai government - and that applies down to the local level, the provincial level, district level - they will apply their own metric, or assessment, on whether that's legitimate for their needs. And it will be a little different in different parts of the country. So I think what we need to see is that progress continue. Much of what fuels most insurgencies is their ability to leverage a, or create a seam between the people and the government. So what we're looking to do is to continue to see that close.