UK may need 20 years to defeat Taliban
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THE objectives of the British mission to Afghanistan could take as long as 20 years to achieve, according to a confidential Ministry of Defence briefing seen by The Sunday Times. The assessment by senior military officers highlights the risks to the 3,300 British troops to be deployed to the lawless Helmand province and warns that even in five years the best that can be hoped for in terms of security and stabilisation would be “interim status”.

The disclosure contrasts with assurances given to the Commons by John Reid, the defence secretary, that the mission will be completed in three years.

Questioned last month about the danger that British troops could end up bogged down in southern Afghanistan, Reid told MPs: “We will make our judgment on the basis of changes on the ground: extension of central government control, a reduction in insurgency, growth of the Afghan security forces and economic development.

“The exit strategy involves one of the entrance aims: the achievement of a degree of success in all those respects in a relatively short time — three years — in the south.”

Posted by: Dan Darling 2006-03-19