Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Surge of troops in Afghanistan 'needed for five years', says Nato commander - Telegraph.co.uk

The surge of extra international troops heading to Afghanistan may need to stay for five years the commander of the country's Nato-led coalition has said.

By Ben Farmer in Kabul

General David McKiernan has asked for more than 30,000 extra US soldiers over the next 18 months to fight the Taliban-led insurgency.

He said there would be "more expected" of other Nato partners and said 2009 would be "a tough year".

A tipping point when the Afghan police and army were strong enough to begin taking charge of security was "some way off" he warned.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "I think we will need increased security commitments for the next three to five years."

Britain already has 8,600 troops in the country and their ranks are expected to swell to around 10,000 over the next 12 months.

Last year saw the highest death toll in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted by US-backed forces in 2001.

The General, who currently commands 55,000 troops, said while progress was being made in the north and east of Afghanistan, it was uneven.

"2008 was a tough year, 2009 will be a tough year," he said. "There's a resiliency to this insurgency and there are fundamental problems with poverty."

The comments came as Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said succeeding in Afghanistan was going to be "much tougher" than in Iraq.

"I have never seen anything like the mess we have inherited," he told a security conference in Munich.

Describing the insurgency in Afghanistan as complex and resilient, General McKiernan said his force lacked soldiers, equipment, police trainers and engineers.

"We can't grow the Afghan army and the police fast enough to say we that we don't need more international commitment right now," he added.

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