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Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 11:00 UK

Routing Taliban 'may take time'

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"If we get it right, the Afghan people will turn the Taliban out"

The top military commander in the US, Adm Michael Mullen, says he does not know how long it will take for security to improve in Afghanistan.

He warned that the Taliban were "much more violent, much more organised, and so there's going to be fighting that is associated with this".

But he said that if the US gets its strategy right, the Afghan people themselves will turn the Taliban out.

The US will boost its 33,000 soldiers with another 30,000 this year.

They will join 32,000 other Nato troops already in the country battling a resurgent Taleban.

Earlier this month US Marines launched the first major Afghan operation of US President Barack Obama's presidency.

The Afghan people are much more uncertain now about their future
Admiral Michael Mullen

About 4,000 marines - many of them redeployed from operations in Iraq - moved into the Helmand River, supported by helicopters and Afghan troops.

Adm Mullen, speaking exclusively to the BBC's Arabic service at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, said he was confident he now had enough forces to hold territory captured from the Taliban.

Asked how soon the security situation in the country would improve, he said: "I don't know how long.

"I know that it's gotten progressively worse over the last three, three-and-a-half years, since 2006, and the Taliban has gotten much better."

But the fighting was "not the main effort".

"In the end, if we get it right for the Afghan people, the Afghan people will turn the Taliban out.

"And that's the answer in counter-insurgency," Adm Mullen said.

He said that over the next 12 to 18 months "we really need to turn the tide".

With violence increasing since 2006, security had worsened, and "the Afghan people are much more uncertain now about their future".

But establishing "robust security" would take longer, he added.



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