Browne denies UK is losing war in Afghanistan


London : Defence Secretary Des Browne Monday denied that British troops were losing the war against remnants of the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan despite the rising death toll.

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“I never ever underestimated the degree of difficulty that we face here – but we are making progress,” Browne insisted following the death of the fourth British soldier in the southern province of Helmand in the past week.

“The British can over face the Taleban in any circumstances, we can over match them rather, we can face them down and we can drive them out of communities,” he said.

The defence secretary said that the challenge is then to “build those communities, local government, their links to the provincial government and to the central government in such a way that that is sustained.”
“What we have to do is that very difficult balancing act of making progress militarily, which we can do,” he said in an interview with BBC Radio Four’s current affairs programme, Today.

Since beginning military operations in 2001, British troops suffered three fatalities during the first three years. But over the last 18 months, the death toll has mounted to 70, including four soldiers being killed in the past week.

Browne expressed condolences to the family of the latest fatality on Saturday but insisted that it was essential that troops remained to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a training ground for terrorists.

“The fact of the matter is it is a long-term commitment and our people are doing an exceptionally good job there but it has to be complemented by the growth of governance from the Afghans themselves,” he said.

His appeal comes as Britain is set to further increase its deployment in Afghanistan from some 6,200 troops to around 7,800 by the end of this year.

Since making his first visit to Afghanistan last week, Foreign Secretary David Miliband has also written a series of articles in the press, defending Britain’s increasing military deployment and insisting the country cannot again become a failed state.