Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was replaced as the leader of U.S. forces in Afghanistan last year after a damaging magazine profile, says Americans need to stay informed about world events and engage with other cultures.
"The reality is that most of us have a very limited understanding of most of the parts of the world where we're invested," McChrystal told an audience Friday in Portland, Oregon, according to The Oregonian. "We have an absolute need to build relationships at the personal level, the organizational level and the regional level."
Less than 20 percent of Americans speak a second language, while nearly of half of Europeans do, he said.
Failure to understand Afghan culture and attitudes undermined U.S. efforts to gain influence in Afghanistan after the Soviets were driven out, he said, according to the Oregonian.
While Americans expected Afghans to be grateful for U.S. backing in that fight, the Afghans felt Americans failed to appreciate their sacrifices against America's greatest rival, he said.
Despite foreign armies' long history of failure in Afghanistan, McChrystal told the audience he believes the current war is winnable.
"In reality, most wars have nobody win," McChrystal said. "What we're trying to do now is have the Afghans win the war in Afghanistan."