London, Aug.22 : A British Army commander deployed in war-ravaged Afghanistan has said that it is difficult to beat the Taliban without adequate reinforcements.
In an interview with The Independent ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to Afghanistan's Helmand Province, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said: "We are probably still on a growth trajectory before we get to the stage when the UK presence can begin to thin out."
The commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade estimated it would be up to five years before Britain could consider dropping troop numbers.
Brigadier Smith's assessment came as senior military officers are reported to have held preliminary talks on increasing British soldiers in Afghanistan from 8,000 to 12,000 - a dramatic difference from the 3,300 initially expected to hold the ground.
Brigadier Smith, who has been in charge during a tour which has cost 24 servicemen and one woman their lives, said he expected the British would at least maintain such high force levels for three to five years.
He said that there was a need for more manpower and more helicopters.
Brown met Brigadier Carleton-Smith and the Governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, before flying to Kabul to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai.
Brigadier Smith said that the key to British withdrawal from Helmand was a strong local army, police and government, and concluded that: "Armies have never controlled Afghanistan. There has always been a political settlement."