Afghanistan outcome is 'distressing' but we must give Taliban 'a chance' says British Army chief

'We would be silly if we didn't give the Taliban a chance'

The head of the British Armed Forces has told ITV News he finds what has happened in Afghanistan "personally distressing" but stressed the Taliban must be given "a chance" to govern.

'It is entirely right for us to be extremely suspicious [of the Taliban] and go on what evidence we've got," General Nick Carter said.

"But again, we would be silly, I think, if we didn't give them a chance".

The military chief said the Taliban, who regained control of Afghanistan in less than a month after Western forces left, should be given "a bit of space to see whether or not they're going to govern in a less repressive, more reasonable, and more inclusive way".

He added: "It may be that they will."

Already ITV News has heard from a UK citizen stranded in Afghanistan who says he has seen the Taliban execute people in his street as the militants go house to house searching for people.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan Credit: Zabi Karimi/AP

His comments come as both the UK and US governments face fierce criticism for the way forces in Afghanistan were withdrawn after 20 years in the country.

Critics have questioned why leaders did not predict the Taliban's swift insurgence and the unpreparedness of the Afghan army.

Speaking to ITV News at Ten presenter Tom Bradby, General Carter was pushed on whether the years in Afghanistan had been worth it, given the return of the Taliban now.

"It will be for others to judge, at a political level, whether this thing was worth it or not," he said.

'What would you say about the sacrifice made in Afghanistan?'

Pushed for his own opinion on the outcome, having fought in Afghanistan, General Carter said: "I feel distressed by it".

"For me, personally, it is something that is distressing. I felt very strongly about what I was doing there, personally. I felt I was trying to do the right thing.

"I felt I was doing it in a fashion that was professional and effective and the fact that we've ended up where we've ended up is not what I would have hoped for at the time."

Asked what he would say to veterans, injured soldiers, and the loves ones of those killed, General Carter said: "I have a personal investment in all of those lives - either those who were lost, or wounded."

Major General Nick Carter (centre) in Lashkar Gar in 2009 after the Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of five British soldiers. Credit: PA

"I really believe passionately in what they did," General Carter added.

"I believe that those people who died or who were wounded went to Afghan believing in what they were doing, doing a job that they felt was an important job to do - doing it in a thoroughly brave and professional fashion".

Faced with the prospect of the Taliban not governing in a "less repressive way," the military chief did not answer whether UK forces would return to the country.

Asked about comments made by General Carter that the Taliban could be "more reasonable" than in previous years, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the army chief was "simply reflecting on what had been claimed by the Taliban yesterday".

He said: "The Taliban will be judged on their actions, not their words."

Watch the full interview with General Nick Carter here: