Major military advances are being reported for the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the NATO withdrawal of its forces is nearly complete.
The drawdown of American, British and other NATO troops is said to be two months ahead of schedule, but there is concern about what happens next.
Violence in the country is continuing to escalate and Pentagon leaders have said there is a "medium" risk that the Afghan government and its security forces could collapse within the next two years, if not sooner.
Speaking to Forces News, former Chief of the General Staff Lord Dannatt warns that the Afghan people now have a choice to make.
"Do they want to go back under the Taliban or do they want to live that better life that we've shown them glimpses of?" he said.
"After all, women and children in education, the position of women in society, [both] much better.
"We've shown them a better life, it's up to the Afghan people now to fight for their better life or otherwise fall back under the Taliban.
"So, it's really down to the will of the people, the will of the Afghan security forces, whether they want to control sufficient of their country for a majority of their people, particularly in the urban areas, to live the kind of life that we've shown them the possibility of."
Lord Dannatt believes a civil war is now looking highly likely, but this does not mean that the government will lose control of urban areas.
"They will struggle, but Afghans are fighters – whether you're Taliban, whether you're under some form of warlord or whether you're part of the Afghan National Army or Afghan police.
"So it doesn't altogether follow that the whole country is going to collapse," he added.
"In the rural areas and districts, there is a degree of collapse going on, but in the provincial centres and in the national capital, I believe that the government will prevail.
"Ultimately, there may be some form of negotiation between the Taliban and the Kabul government to come up with a modus vivendi for the future."
With the withdrawal of foreign troops, the Taliban will be losing the common enemy which once united them.
Lord Dannatt says this could fracture their future power: "One of the major weapons that the Taliban have been able to employ hitherto is that they were fighting to evict westerners, Judeo-Christian soldiers, from their Islamic soil.
"Once we have left, I suppose in the same way as once the Russians left in 1979, then the Taliban will have lost one of its main causes to be in existence.
"So the future fight, if there is going to be a future fight in Afghanistan, will be genuinely a civil war between those who support the Taliban and those who are enjoying the better quality of life that the international community has helped put in place over the last 20 years."
As prospective peace talks continue to stall, Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwary told Forces News that a ceasefire is the only way forward for his country.
"I think Afghanistan continues to remain on this very vulnerable path if there's no ceasefire, if there's no comprehensive peace process.
"In that scenario, I think quite tragically for our own people the fighting, the pain, the agony, and the suffering will continue.
"You are talking about a massive number of Afghans being forced out of their own homes leaving behind the little belongings and income that they have in those rural communities."
Cover image: Afghan security forces respond to a Taliban attack (Picture: PA).