Afghan official with British Army officer.
Afghan official with British Army officer. Reuters

The head of Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has warned that Afghanistan could descend into a civil war once NATO soldiers depart the country.

Under terms of the current agreement, NATO member countries with troops on duty in Afghanistan will hand over control to local authorities by 2014.

However, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton told BBC Radio, said that civil war in Afghanistan is possibility although he added that his confidence in local forces preserving peace the county is gradually increasing.

Apart from the odd spectacular - which will happen as we develop the full capability within the Afghan national security forces - we can see more and more examples of where there is capability to defend and to safeguard their own future, he said.

Moreover, he said, that it might take five to ten years after the withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan to assess the true condition of the troubled nation.

“That will be the timescale which we will look back and say did we do enough to provide them the space and opportunity to take on governance,” he suggested.

Dalton also conceded that NATO made some mistakes in its Afghan campaign, some of which resulted in the deaths of civilians.

Mistakes do get made but what we have to make sure then is we understand what mistakes were made and to learn from those lessons, he stated.

In addition, some British military representatives and/or equipment might actually remain in Afghanistan beyond the 2014 expiry date.

I am not sure exactly how long we will be required to stay and help. It would certainly be a possibility and an opportunity which our government will have to make a decision on on what it needs to do, Dalton noted.

Meanwhile, Britain is paying a high price for staying in Afghanistan.

Last week, two British soldiers were killed in southwestern Afghanistan when their armored vehicle hit a makeshift bomb in the province of Helmand.

Year to date, the British military has suffered 386 casualties.

The UK has about 9500 forces in Afghanistan, primarily in the Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban.