Friday, October 23, 2009
The head of the British Army, General Sir David Richards, says it will be "about 2014" before UK troops numbers in Afghanistan reduce.
He told the BBC's Caroline Wyatt the war in Afghanistan was "a war very much worth fighting for".
He said the army's equipment "is as good as it possibly can be and we continue to address that all the time".
Gen Richards replaced Gen Sir Richard Dannatt as Chief of the General Staff in August.
Gen Richards was speaking on the day Royal British Legion launched its 2009 Poppy Appeal.
This year's appeal is focusing on supporting troops wounded in Afghanistan and their families.
He said the armed forces in Afghanistan were currently in "a period of risk" where there were not enough troops to perform the required tasks.
He called for a bridging force, to contain the Taliban, while we "much more aggressively" grow the Afghan army and police.
Gen Richards said: "If we get it right, our estimation is that by about 2011, 2012 we'll see an appreciable improvement, and by about 2014 we will ramp down our numbers as they ramp up and you'll start to reduce the overall risks of the operation.
"It is an ambitious target, which is why... I caveated slightly by saying I'm expecting Nato to ask us to put more into the training pot to allow that force to grow more aggressively.
"But if I'm half-right we've got five years of declining violence as we get that formula right and then we'll go into what might be called a supporting role."
And he added that the war was "very much worth fighting for all our sakes and for our children's sakes.
"The price of failure hasn't really been properly understood in my humble estimation."
He also said extra helicopters were needed, and that the aircraft must be used more efficiently.
"I won't say we've had that right in the past but I think we're on track."