Afghan security handover not till 2014: British military chief

9th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Britain's military chief said Sunday that international troops in Afghanistan would be unlikely to hand over security to Afghan forces until 2014, amid mounting public concern about the mission there.

London - Britain's military chief said Sunday that international troops in Afghanistan would be unlikely to hand over security to Afghan forces until 2014, amid mounting public concern about the mission there.

Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, the chief of defence staff, told the BBC that timescale estimates by General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, were "a little optimistic".

"General McChrystal estimates that it will not be before 2013. I think that's a little optimistic. I'd say about 2014," Stirrup said.

"Of course, it'll be a gradual process. It won't be one big step change."

Earlier, Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, the most senior British commander in Afghanistan, suggested that it would take "three to four years" to reach Britain's stated goal of handing over the security lead to domestic forces.

Concern over Britain's role in Afghanistan and how long its 9,000 troops will be there has mounted in recent months alongside the death toll.

Another fatality in southern Helmand province, where British forces are battling Taliban insurgents, was announced on Sunday, bringing the total number of British dead since the US-led invasion in 2001 to 231.

The news was particularly poignant, coming on the day that Britain and Commonwealth countries remember all those who have died in wars current and past on Remembrance Sunday.

British public support for the war in Afghanistan is falling, according to a new poll, which also showed that more than 40 percent do not understand why the troops are fighting there.

Some 64 percent meanwhile agreed "the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable", up six percent from July, while 27 percent disagreed, down four percent.

Both Stirrup and Dutton acknowledged that they and the government had to better explain to the public why Britain was fighting in Afghanistan, and to stress the successes that they had.

"It's painful and it's slow and it's halting but it is in the right direction," Stirrup said.

AFP/Expatica

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