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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
'Morale high' among UK troops
General David Richards
General David Richards said he was proud of troops in Afghanistan
The British general heading Nato's force in southern Afghanistan says morale is high among his troops despite recent intense fighting.

Lt Gen David Richards has compared the intensity of warfare that British troops are facing to the Korean and Second World wars.

But he said his troops were confident about the task ahead.

"They are tired, but morale is very high. They know what we are trying to do, which is to get on the front foot."

We don't want to sit passively drawing the Taleban to us for the next three months
Lt Gen David Richards

"They need a bit of rest because some of them have been out there for over 40 days and almost nightly have come under attack. Some of the battles were going on for more than four or five hours and the intensity of the fighting has been considerable.

"It is very bruising and tiring but as a commander I cannot tell you how proud I am of what they have done.

"Some of these soldiers have been under constant attack almost daily for about month but they have always stood their ground, retained their position in the villages and killed - sadly in some respects - a lot of Taleban.

Map of four provincial capitals in Afghanistan
The offensive will focus on four southern provincial capitals

"But we don't want to sit passively drawing the Taleban to us for the next three months."

On Thursday, Gen Richards warned UK troops in Afghanistan faced fighting which was more intense and prolonged than any other conflict in the past 50 years.

He described the threat posed by the Taleban as "persistent low-level dirty fighting".

Over the next three months, the eastern part of Afghanistan - which is currently under US control - will pass to the responsibility of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and Gen Richards.

"There will be one general accountable to Isaf, it will offer much greater coherence," he said.

"It is a great honour to be given responsibility for committing troops to this all important threat level - I view it very seriously. I have got a huge capability there."

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