London, Dec.2 : Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Britain's Chief of Defence Staff, has said that more service personnel could be deployed in Afghanistan as Britain withdraws from Iraq. But he insisted that the additional force sent to Afghanistan must be smaller than the 4,000 troops that will soon leave Iraq.
Delivering a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, Air Chief Marshal Stirrup said the UK was now "close" to a "dramatic" reduction in numbers in Iraq, but insisted that there could be no "one-for-one" transfer from there to Afghanistan.
He also repeated calls for Britain's overall foreign commitments to reduce.
Senior defence sources said the defence chief's comments reflect a belief that the Nato mission to contain the Taliban and stabilise Afghanistan is not making enough progress.
US defence officials are believed to have suggested that the UK should send more than 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan in the New Year, when British generals are due to assume command of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. American defence officials are working on plans to send another 20,000 US troops to Afghanistan.
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup and other Forces chiefs had previously appeared cool about a bigger Afghan force. His comments on Monday night remove any obstacle to more British troops being deployed in the New Year.
In his lecture, Air Chief Marshal Stirrup said: "We shouldn't be satisfied with our progress in 2008."
He said: "They've (Taliban and al Qaeda) beaten us to the punch on numerous occasions, and by doing so they've magnified the sense of difficulty and diminished the sense of progress. This is down in part to their skill, and in part to our own failings."
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup also urged politicians and voters to keep a sense of perspective about what can be achieved in Afghanistan.
"Terms like winning and victory have no place in the lexicon there," he said referring to Afghanistan.