LONDON: British newspaper The Telegraph has quoted an American official claiming that al Qaeda has returned to Afghanistan and is planning to use the war-torn nation as a base to launch another 9/11-style attack on Western countries.
According to American ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, if the West was to leave Afghanistan too early, the al-Qaeda would be able to increase its presence.
"If we decide we're tired, they'll be back," Crocker told The Telegraph.
"Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. 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," he added.
According to the report, Crocker said that while progress had been made, Afghanistan would need Western support for years to come.
He stressed said that the Al-Qaeda remained a potent threat despite suffering setbacks.
"We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated," said Crocker, who previously served as ambassador to Iraq.
"We think we've won a campaign before our adversaries have even started to fight. They have patience, and they know that we are short on that," he added.
According to the paper, NATO officials believe that nearly 100 Al-Qaeda fighters have returned to Afghanistan, based mainly in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces near the Pakistan border.
Hundreds more are based in Pakistan and could return if circumstances were to change.
Moreover, after the Toulouse shootings this month by a suspected Al-Qaeda-trained gunman, British intelligence officials believe the group is planning a wave of attacks against Western targets, including the London Olympics.