UK commander says Taliban fighting prowess in Afghanistan has been underrated

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London, July 29 (ANI): A senior British Army commander has admitted that the NATO forces have underestimated and underrated the fighting prowess of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman told The Times that the NATO campaign against the Taliban has put the Army "hugely under pressure".

"We thought that the insurgency still existed in Helmand, but the violence and scale has been shocking. We have made some progress but at a dickens of a cost in lives," General Granville-Chapman, who has just retired as Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, said.

He said that the government's decision to dispatch a single "specialist brigade" - 16 Air Assault Brigade - to Helmand province in 2006 seemed reasonable at the time because of the continuing commitment in Iraq.

Now, he said, the number of British troops of about 9,000 was "about the right figure" for the period leading up to the Afghan presidential election next month.

"After that we will have to step back and see what is needed," General Granville-Chapman said.

He also said that the manpower of the armed forces should not be cut in next year's defence review, but consideration would have to be given to reducing numbers of equipment types - "fewer fast jets" and even possibly ordering only one of the proposed two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers.

Despite Britain sending just 3,300 troops in 2006, General Granville-Chapman said that they had succeeded in preventing the insurgents from meeting their strategic objective "which was to oust us".

One of the key elements of next year's defence review would be to decide whether it was possible to carry out a medium-scale campaign for such "an enduring period" - as in Afghanistan - if there were other commitments elsewhere.

The general admitted that after the general election ministers would need to reach "harsh decisions" about what to keep and what to axe. (ANI)

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