Taliban is losing war, says British military chief

Author: By Margaret Davis and Sam Marsden, Press Association

Eight troops have died in the period, bringing the total who have been killed
in the country since 2001 to 184, surpassing the death toll of 179 in Iraq.
Fifteen soldiers have now died in Afghanistan in the last 10 days.

Chief of Defence Staff Sir Jock Stirrup sent his condolences to the bereaved
families, but said it was important to “remember why our people are fighting
in Afghanistan and what they are achieving through their sacrifice and their
courage”.

In a televised statement, he went on: “It’s tough going because the Taliban
have rightly identified Helmand as their vital ground. If they lose there
then they lose everywhere and they are throwing everything they have into
it.

“But they are losing and our commanders on the ground are very clear of that.
But it’s going to take time and alas it does involve casualties, but when
it’s complete there will be the opportunity for considerably greater
governance for the people of Helmand.”

Many of the most recent fatalities came during Operation Panchai Palang, or
Panther’s Claw, a major British assault against the Taliban in Helmand ahead
of next month’s Afghan elections.

Some 3,000 troops are involved in the operation, which began on June 19 and
has seen fierce fighting and significant casualties on both sides.

The top US commander in the Middle East has warned of tough months ahead in
the fight against the Taliban.

General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, described the battle
in the south of the country as “the longest campaign”.

Meanwhile, a former head of the Armed Forces yesterday accused the Government
of putting UK forces at risk and spending the “minimum they could get away
with” on defence.

General Lord Guthrie, chief of the defence staff from 1997 to 2001, said
commanders on the ground were struggling with too few troops.

He told the Daily Mail: “I spoke to an officer the other day who said that the
Treasury had affected the operational safety of our soldiers, by preventing
an uplift in our numbers.”

It is “very likely” that fewer soldiers would have been killed by roadside
bombs in Afghanistan if ministers had provided funding for more helicopters,
he added.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown acknowledged it was a “very hard summer” for the
troops but insisted the Government’s resolution to seeing through the
mission was “undiminished”.

Speaking from the G8 Summit at L’Aquila in Italy, he said: “Our resolution to
complete the work that we have started in Afghanistan and Pakistan is
undiminished.

“We knew from the start that defeating the insurgency in Helmand would be a
hard and dangerous job but it is vital.”

The worst single loss of life in Afghanistan came in September 2006 when 14
people died in a Nimrod plane crash.

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