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NATO chief says Afghanistan war winnable

Published on 05/10/2009

London - NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted Sunday that the war in Afghanistan could succeed and said troops would stay "as long as it takes to finish our job".

Rasmussen also stressed it was too early to say how many extra troops should be sent to Afghanistan, as US President Barack Obama considers a request from US commander General Stanley McChrystal for up to 40,000 more soldiers.

In an interview with Britain’s Sky News television, Rasmussen went on to call for a "strategic partnership" between NATO and Russia.

On prospects for victory in Afghanistan, he said: "It is achievable and we will succeed provided that we choose the right approach…. We need a new approach, we need a population-centric approach."

Although it was "premature" to comment on the number of extra troops needed, he said Afghan forces could be built up to around 130,000 soldiers and 80,000 police.

"I think it’s important to stress that we will stay committed, we will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to finish our job but obviously that is not forever," he said.

Rasmussen also spoke on NATO relations with Russia, which were badly strained by last year’s Russia-Georgia war but have improved under the Obama administration, which vowed to "reset" Russian ties.

"I think the long-term strategy should be to develop a strategic partnership between NATO and Russia," he said.

"It’s a mutual interest to reduce tensions in Europe and we should focus on pratical cooperation with Russia in areas where we share security interests."