British commander says Afghanistan war cannot be won


LONDON, Reuters

Britain’s commander in Afghanistan has said the war against the Taliban cannot be won, the Sunday Times reported.

It quoted Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith as saying in an interview that if the Taliban were willing to talk, then that might be “precisely the sort of progress” needed to end the insurgency.

“We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army,” he said.

He said his forces had “taken the sting out of the Taliban for 2008” but that troops may well leave Afghanistan with there still being a low level of insurgency.

But Afghanistan’s Defense Minister expressed his disappointment on Sunday at the commander’s statements, maintaining the insurgency had to be defeated.

“I think this is the personal opinion of that commander,” Abdul Rahim Wardak told reporters.

“The main objective of the Afghan government and the whole international community is that we have to defeat this war of terror and be successful,” he said.

Wardak said success also depended on how British forces were approaching the problems they faced in Helmand but did not say whether their current strategy was the right one.

Asked if the commander’s comments came as a disappointment, Wardak said: “Yes, it is disappointing, for sure.”

At the White House, spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Carleton Smith’s comments reflected a need for the United States, NATO and the Afghan army to work together to support Afghanistan.

“It’s going to take all of us … working together on the political, economic and security fronts to win in Afghanistan. I’m sure that’s what the brigadier meant by his comment,” he said.