Saturday, August 8, 2009
Britain’s mission in Afghanistan could last for up to 40 years, the next head of the Army warns today in an exclusive interview with The Times.
General Sir David Richards, who becomes Chief of the General Staff on August 28, said: “The Army’s role will evolve, but the whole process might take as long as 30 to 40 years.”
He emphasised that British troop involvement, currently 9,000-strong, should only be needed for the medium term, but insisted that there was “absolutely no chance” of Nato pulling out. “I believe that the UK will be committed to Afghanistan in some manner — development, governance, security sector reform — for the next 30 to 40 years,” he said.
General Richards said: “We need now to focus on the expansion of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Just as in Iraq, it is our route out militarily, but the Afghan people and our opponents need to know that this does not mean our abandoning the region. We made this mistake once. Our opponents are banking on us doing it again, and we must prove them wrong,”
Of the Taleban, he said: “We can and are outfighting them.”