Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Sunday, 4 October 2009 08:15 UK

New Army chief joins troops call

General Sir David Richards
Gen Richards says Nato must show it can offer Afghans a brighter future

The new head of the Army has backed calls for more international forces to be deployed to Afghanistan.

General Sir David Richards told the Sunday Telegraph reinforcements would enable Nato to achieve its objectives more quickly and with fewer casualties.

"We can start winning the psychological battle," he told the paper.

US President Barack Obama is considering a request for more soldiers and if he agrees, reports suggest Britain may follow suit.

'Austere future'

In his first interview since taking over the job in August, Gen Richards said: "If you put in more troops we can achieve the objectives laid upon us more quickly and with less casualties.

"We can start winning the psychological battle, which is broadly wrapped around the Taliban saying, 'The West and the Afghan government is doing very little for you - we will offer you an austere future but at least it will be secure'.

"What we need to demonstrate is that we, Nato and the Afghan government, offer a much brighter future which is more secure, with jobs, and education and better health."

The recent airlines plot has reminded us that there are people out there who would happily blow all of us up
General Sir David Richards

His comments come as Nato officials report that eight foreign soldiers and two Afghan troops have been killed in a fire-fight in Nuristan province in the remote east of the country.

Violence has escalated in eastern Afghanistan in recent months as insurgents have relocated from the south of the country.

Meanwhile, the number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001 has reached 219 after the death on Thursday of 24-year-old RAF serviceman Marcin Wojtak in Helmand province in the south.

Gen Richards warned that failure in Afghanistan could only put Britain at greater risk.

"If al-Qaeda and the Taliban believe they have defeated us - what next? Would they stop at Afghanistan?" he asked.

"Pakistan is clearly a tempting target, not least because of the fact that it is a nuclear-weaponed state, and that is a terrifying prospect.

"Even if only a few of those weapons fell into their hands, believe me, they would use them.

"The recent airlines plot has reminded us that there are people out there who would happily blow all of us up."

On Thursday, Downing Street said the prime minister was "open-minded" about whether more UK troops were needed in Afghanistan.

A spokesman said an increase depended on the right strategy being in place and the necessary equipment being available for personnel.

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