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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 August 2007, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
UK troops 'stretched but winning'
General Sir Richard Dannatt
Gen Dannatt said troops felt "valued and supported"

British troops are "stretched" but they are winning the tactical battle in Afghanistan, the head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, has said.

During a visit to the country, he told the BBC that operations in Iraq and Afghanistan meant soldiers were being deployed more often than he would like.

But their skill and determination were defeating the Taleban, he said.

Gen Dannatt also backed calls for special recognition for those involved in the battles in southern Afghanistan.

Casualties

He said he had "pride and admiration" for all the young soldiers in the British army and said there was no other force that could be doing such a difficult task in the country.

"With the training we've got, the equipment we've got, and determination, and leadership, we're winning our tactical engagements," he said.

We can be busy, we can be stretched, we can run hot - provided we are looking after individuals
General Sir Richard Dannatt

"Of course, tragically, we take casualties from time to time. I don't want to get into a numbers count, but the Taleban have taken a lot more casualties than we have."

While troops were "certainly stretched" and soldiers were not getting as long in barracks as he would like, morale was good, he said.

"We can be busy, we can be stretched, we can run hot - provided we are looking after individuals.

"Critically, our soldiers feel valued and supported and thanked for what they are doing."

Forces 'overstretched'

His comments came as Defence Secretary Des Browne denied claims the government is failing in its duty to UK troops who put their lives on the line for their country.

The Royal British Legion had said the Military Covenant - guaranteeing troops fair treatment in return for forgoing other rights - is not being upheld.

Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "We face the problem that in Britain the government has overstretched our armed forces without giving them sufficient resources to do the job they're being asked to do."

He went on to criticise the level of commitment from Britain's allies.

Dr Fox said: "Our international allies, particularly some of our European allies and Nato, simply have not been stepping up to the plate in an international operation of this nature."

Medal petition

Gen Dannatt also backed calls for special recognition for those involved in fighting in southern Afghanistan which he said was "of a greater intensity than that which had gone on elsewhere in Afghanistan in recent years".

"My view is that there should be a clasp on the medal which says southern Afghanistan," he said.

"We've already got a medal for Afghanistan, we don't do two medals for the same campaign, but to recognise southern Afghanistan by a clasp on that medal is, I think, the way to do it."

His comments follow the launch of an online petition calling for a special medal to be awarded to British forces fighting the Taleban.

Campaigners complain the Ministry of Defence (MoD) still offers soldiers the same medal as it did to those involved in peacekeeping duties in 2002.

However, the MoD says the current award is not for peacekeeping but general operational service.

Gen Dannatt also called on the Post Office to offer free postal services to the families of serving members of the armed forces deployed in conflicts overseas.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
General Dannatt visits troops in Afghanistan



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