'Reputation of British Armed Forces at risk in Afghanistan'

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London, Nov. 7 (ANI): If Britain fails to make any progress in the Afghanistan war, the reputation and long-term future of its Armed forces will be at risk, two top defence ministry officials have said.

The declaration by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, and Sir Bill Jeffrey, the Permanent Secretary, leaves no room for the possibility of an early withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"The International Security Assistance Force mission is of critical importance to the security of British citizens and the UK's national interest, including the credibility of Nato, and to the reputation and long-term future of the Armed Forces," the Times quoted an internal MoD document, entitled Strategy for Defence, as saying.

"Planning within Defence should be based on the assumption of a rolling three-year military commitment to Afghanistan, reviewed annually," they say in a jointly signed document.

Their unequivocal statement of commitment in Afghanistan appeared out of step with a speech given by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Thursday.

While insisting that British troops must stay, Brown said he told President Hamid Karzai that he would forfeit the right to international support if he failed to root out corruption and improve his governance of the country.

Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox accused Brown of giving out mixed messages and making empty threats.

"We must put pressure on the Karzai Government to improve governance and tackle corruption, but if our mission in Afghanistan is a national security imperative, it can't be conditional on the behaviour of others," he said. (ANI)

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