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New British Army Chief says Afghan Success Vital

By Jennifer Glasse
18 September 2009

The new head of the British army says success in Afghanistan is vital and the outcome of the conflict there will have a profound effect on geo politics. The general who is about to take command of Britain's 9,000 troops in Afghanistan says it's imperative that international forces show the Afghan population signs of positive change soon.

General David Richards says Afghanistan is the British military's main focus. He says the conflict should not be seen a blueprint for the future, but that it offers opportunities for the British forces to grow and adapt to 21st century challenges. Success in Afghanistan he says is a grand strategic issue for Britain.

"It is vital to our domestic security that we do not allow Afghanistan to once again become an exporter of al Qaida inspired terrorism or give such people a victory that could inspire a much bigger threat still," said the general.

He says the Taliban only have the support of about five percent of the Afghan people.

"Over 80 percent of the Afghan population still doggedly want their government and the international community to succeed, although their patience with our failure to meet the expectations of progress we ironically have done much to create is flagging," said General Richards.

The next commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Major General Nick Carter, told British radio that he understands that he will have to act quickly to keep the Afghan people on his side.

"We don't have the luxury of time, but 18 months ago there were probably 1,500 American soldiers in the south, there are now 25,000 and there's an awful lot more resources coming into the south as well and with this amount of effort I think that we do have an opportunity during the course of the next year to make a difference, but I absolutely acknowledge that time is not on our side," he said.

Still General Carter is optimistic that NATO forces will prevail in Afghanistan. "I think that it will happen slowly, but my goodness me there will be a tipping point when the population will suddenly realize that it's better to be with its government institutions rather than with the insurgent," he said.

General Richards is optimistic too. He says his forces know the ingredients for success in Afghanistan, but as in Iraq, it may take a little time to find the correct formula for success. That, he says, would be a stabilized country able to manage its own security.

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