Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Tuesday, 17 June 2008 10:43 UK

UK troops 'need to match Taleban'

Troops in Afghanistan
Gen Sir Mike Jackson welcomed the troop increase

A former head of the Army says it would be wrong to set a timeframe on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Gen Sir Mike Jackson told BBC News that troops must be prepared to match the "strategic endurance" of the Taleban.

He welcomed the recent government announcement of an increase in troop numbers, saying it would not overstretch Britain's armed forces.

Troop numbers in Afghanistan will increase by 230 to more than 8,000 by next spring.

The additional troops will improve security, train Afghan forces and assist with reconstruction.

Sir Mike said the job of nation-building in Afghanistan cannot be completed "overnight".

He said: "We can be quite certain that our opponents have strategic endurance. We must match that strategic endurance - indeed overmatch it."

'Do-able'

The additional deployments will bring the number of British troops deployed in its two main conflict areas - Afghanistan and Iraq - to 12,000.

Sir Mike said such levels were "do-able in my judgment".

He added: "An army of 100,000 can make that work. Let's not forget it is not that long ago that we had 20,000 soldiers stationed in Northern Ireland."

The number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001 reached 102 last week.

British casualties are now second only to the US in the number of troop fatalities.

On the rising troop numbers, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "We have resolved, first of all, as we did some years ago, that it is in the British national interest to confront the Taleban in Afghanistan or Afghanistan would come to us."

But he said it was not a question of moving British troops from Iraq to Afghanistan as there was a job to do in both: "You can't trade numbers between the two countries."





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