Public support ‘crucial’ to Afghan success, says general

Author: By Gavin Cordon, Press Association

Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, the deputy commander of the international
forces in Afghanistan, spoke out as the MoD announced the death of a soldier
who died in a blast near Sangin, Helmand Province, yesterday, on the eve of
Remembrance Sunday.

Lt Gen Dutton said people needed to understand that British troops were not
being sacrificed simply for the sake of the government of President Hamid
Karzai.

“British soldiers are not dying simply to provide an electoral opportunity for
Afghans,” he said in an interview with the BBC1 Politics Show to be
broadcast later today.

“There is much more to the provision of stability in this area of the world,
which is a project for which I have to say, yes, it is worth some soldiers
having to die for because the consequences of it going wrong are far
greater.”

The serviceman who was killed, from the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles, was praised
by Task Force Helmand spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel David Wakefield, who
said: “He died a soldier, doing his duty and among his fellow soldiers. He
will not be forgotten.”

The soldier’s family have been informed.

On Friday, Gordon Brown issued a warning to the Afghan president that he must
do more to tackle corruption and build good governance if he was to continue
to receive the support of the international community.

Lt Gen Dutton said that he believed the public would continue to support the
campaign in Afghanistan provided that they understood what it was trying to
achieve and how it could be done.

“I think I can say without any doubt that support back home is crucially
important but I don’t sense any lack of support for soldiers back home,” he
said.

“I think the British people, and indeed all our populations back home, will
put up with the cost of this sort of operation, and I mean the cost in human
and financial terms, if they believe two things: one that we’re right and
two that we can win.

“We have to convince them of that – that we have a good plan, that we’re right
to be doing this. We have momentum along that path and they have to believe
that we can win.”

However, a ComRes opinion poll for the programme found that almost two thirds
– 64 per cent – now believe that the war is “unwinnable”, while a similar
proportion – 63 per cent – wanted British troops to be withdrawn as soon as
possible.

Lt Gen Dutton acknowledged the mission was not making as much progress as they
would like and that the situation was, as the US commander General Stanley
McChrystal had warned, “serious and deteriorating”.

“It’s not necessarily going backwards, it’s certainly not going forwards and
certainly not at the speed we would wish,” he said.

He said that under Gen McChrystal’s proposals – currently under review by the
US administration – the international forces would “suppress” the Taliban
insurgency over the next three to four years, while they trained up the
Afghan security forces to take over from them.

While he said that it would be “extremely helpful” if more could be done in
this area, it was important not to rush the process.

“We don’t want to build an inefficient army,” he said. “We want to build a
good army and a good police force and that takes time and that’s why we need
international forces to cover that gap.”

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