Home Muslim World News Dramatic progress by UK troops in Helmand province, commander

Dramatic progress by UK troops in Helmand province, commander


London : British troops have made “dramatic” progress in the southern Afghan province of Helmand over the last 18 months, the commander of the UK’s Armed Forces said in an interview broadcast Friday.

But the Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said this did not mean that the pace of military operations should be stepped up in order finally to drive the Taliban out of the area.

While he could “always use more troops” to bolster the 5,500 in Helmand and extend British control in the north of the province, Sir Jock said the key to achieving Britain’s strategic goals in Afghanistan was improvements to the country’s governance to win the hearts and minds of the local population.

In an interview recorded earlier this week, Sir Jock told BBC radio “What is clear is, if you look at where we were 18 months ago in Helmand and you look at where we are now, you see that there has been what I would almost categorise as dramatic progress”.

“You don’t hold the countryside, but what you do need to do is dominate it. In terms of Helmand as a whole, as we have been progressing that’s exactly what we have done, both north and south”.

“That doesn’t mean to say we maintain a permanent presence, but it does mean to say we have freedom of manoeuvre in that terrain and the enemy has very limited freedom of manoeuvre. We need to spread that effect further to the north, beyond the town of Musa Qala”, he added.

Asked if he would like the UK Ministry of Defence to deploy more troops to Helmand, Sir Jock replied “You could always use more troops, because if you have more troops you can do things at a greater tempo. But to be perfectly honest, that is not the constraining factor at the moment”.

“The military operations we are conducting are not an end in themselves. As we have said from the very start, the military can’t deliver strategic success in this theatre. Strategic success can only be delivered politically”.

Sir Jock said that the more success the British troops have, the more personnel would be needed to man bases and hold territory. But he said the bulk of these forces should come from the Afghan National Army and police force.