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UK troops to remain in Afghanistan for 5 years - leaked document

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Jan 26, IRNA -- British troops are expected to remain in Afghanistan at least for another five years, according to a leaked draft communiqué being prepared for this week’s international conference on Afghanistan.

The draft closing statement leaked to the UK press commits Afghan forces to “taking the lead and conducting the majority of operations in the insecure areas of Afghanistan within three years and taking responsibility for physical security within five years”.

Participating governments at the London conference are also expected to agree to bribes totalling hundreds of millions of pounds which will be paid to leading insurgents in the hope that they will stop fighting.

The communiqué suggests that “providing conditions are met,” some of the more stable regions of the country may be put under the control of the Afghan security forces at the end of this year or in early 2011, with Western troops providing support.

But the overall timescale is seen significantly less optimistic than that previously envisaged by US President Barack Obama and the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who have both suggested that the two countries forces could begin drawing down troops during next year.

A cautious note was also struck by the top US General David Petraeus, who told The Times in an interview that fighting in Helmand and elsewhere in the south could intensify this summer.

Petraeus has also warned that the particular combination of factors that produced a decisive drop in violence following the 2007 Iraq surge were unlikely to be replicated as quickly or as dramatically in Afghanistan.

Ahead of Thursday’s conference, the British commander of forces in southern Afghanistan further elaborated on the offensive, saying it would "assert the control" of the government in parts of Helmand, now controlled by the Taliban.

"Helmand is very much a work in progress, with parts simply ungoverned," Major General Nick Carter told Radio 4's The World At One in an exclusive interview.

"If they're governed at all, it's by parallel governments provided often by the Taliban,” Carter said. If NATO was going to win the argument, he said it needed to “assert the government's control over those areas which are at the moment ungoverned."

The areas likely to be targeted include central Helmand and to the west and south west of Lashkagah, parts of which have not been under Afghan Government's control for months, or in some cases years.

The major general said that the strategy was of increased coordination with local, political, and military forces and was designed to help minimize the cooalition's casualties.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 918932



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