National Security

Marine General: Taliban Violence Sets Region on ‘Dangerous Path’

The site of a car bomb blast near the destroyed office building of Afghanistan's intelligence agency in the city of Aybak / Getty Images

The top general of the United States Central Command warned of declining prospects for long-term peace in Afghanistan in an interview with NPR Friday morning.

Marine Corps general Frank McKenzie—who oversees military operations in Central Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia—spent the last 13 days visiting 10 countries in those regions. Though McKenzie said he had productive meetings with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, he remained concerned about intensifying Taliban offensives in northern Afghanistan. The general said he expects a "dangerous path" for the region if the Taliban continue their violent campaigns.

"We have a narrow path to go forward," McKenzie said of peace prospects. "The level of violence is still too high."

The Taliban continue to shield al Qaeda operations and grow their own political influence through violence in the wake of U.S. negotiations for troop withdrawal. Al Qaeda remains a critical threat to American security—a jihadist traced to the al Qaeda network committed a mass shooting at a naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., in December.

McKenzie also expressed concern over the outsized role Russia plays in Afghanistan. The general noted Russia's ambitions to pursue its own national interests in the region, adding that the country provides the Taliban with moral support and other forms of aid. "They are not our friend," he said of Moscow. "They don't wish us success anywhere."

McKenzie could not confirm allegations that the Taliban actively received bounties from Russian agents to kill American soldiers. He did, however, assert that such a policy, if confirmed, would cross a "very fine line" for American policymakers.