Monday, September 28, 2009
By Jerome Starkey
Britain’s top general in Afghanistan backed calls for more troops, insisting it would be impossible to deny al-Qaeda their terrorist safe havens by “simply patrolling from the skies”. In an exclusive interview with The Times, Lieutenant-General Jim Dutton, said yesterday that he supported a formal request made by his boss, General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander, for up to 40,000 new troops.
On Friday General McChrystal submitted a formal request to Nato and the Pentagon for a surge in troop numbers to help to tame a growing insurgency.
General Dutton, the deputy commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, insisted that “long-term stability” in Afghanistan was the only way to stop international terrorists using the country as a launch pad for attacks in Europe and the US.
His comments came as continuing violence across the country yesterday claimed the lives of six Nato troops, including a British casualty. The soldier, from the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Regiment, was hit by a roadside bomb in northern Helmand.
Hours earlier three French marines were killed in a thunderstorm. One was struck by lightning during a night-time foot patrol in Kapisa province, east of Kabul. Two others drowned trying to ford a flooded river.
In southern Afghanistan an American serviceman was killed by an explosion, while a second was fatally wounded in a Taleban ambush.
The growing toll exacted by the campaign has undermined public support, prompting some US officials to suggest scaling back the foreign presence and relying instead on unmanned drones to bomb terrorist training centres as and when they appear.
A leaked report by General McChrystal warned that without more troops the mission risks failure.
General Dutton told The Times that victory was a matter of “straightforward force ratios”. “If you want to achieve long-term stability, and therefore a lack of terrorism potential in an area, you need to be doing more than simply patrolling the skies,” he said.
“The ultimate answer to this problem is a stable democratic state of Afghanistan in which their own forces are capable of maintaining the rule of law and security.”
For the full report click here for the Times online