Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Foreign forces cannot be here permanently for security
The governor of Helmand Province today expressed his gratitude for what British troops are doing in Afghanistan - but added that he hoped they leave "as soon as possible".
Gulab Mangal also predicted that efforts to protect this week's presidential and provincial elections would be a success, although he declined to forecast how many people would turn out to vote.
Most of the 9,100 UK troops in Afghanistan are based in Helmand, which is at the heart of the bloody Taliban insurgency that has cost so many British lives.
Governor Mangal said he "truly appreciated" the work of British and American forces in his province.
But he went on: "The foreign forces cannot be here permanently for security.
"We will have to train the Afghan national security forces until they can keep security permanently in Afghanistan ...
"We hope the foreign forces will go as soon as possible, when we can bring peace to the country and bring security ourselves.
"But right now we really need foreign forces in our country."
His comments came after the head of British forces in Helmand said military control could be handed over to Afghan forces in parts of the province immediately.
Brigadier Tim Radford, commander of Task Force Helmand, suggested this could happen in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and to a lesser extent in Garmsir.
Speaking through an interpreter at his offices in Lashkar Gah, Governor Mangal called on foreign forces to train and equip Afghan soldiers and police so they can assume control of security.
He said he would be "really happy" for British troops to go home to their families but would not be drawn on how long he believed they should remain in Helmand.
"It really depends on the enemies of Afghanistan - (it will be) as soon as they get rid of the enemies of Afghanistan, as soon as we get security," he said.
Governor Mangal said 65-70% of people in Helmand would be able to vote in Thursday's elections, but he said the actual turnout figure would depend on security.
He said: "We have got a military plan for security, and I believe that plan is going to be successful."
Governor Mangal is well liked by British officers and diplomats, particularly when compared to some of his less reputable predecessors.
But he was tight-lipped about his likely future after the elections, saying it depended on the government in the capital Kabul.
"If they think that I am reliable, that I am a responsible person for this job, they will keep me here," he said.
"If they think I am not, they will replace me with someone else."