We underestimated the Taliban, says Minister
By Kirsty Walker
The Taliban were underestimated by the nations fighting them in Afghanistan, the Defense Minister admitted yesterday.
Bill Rammell said the â€˜challenge from insurgents in Helmand province is greater than we anticipatedâ€™.
His comments came after Britainâ€™s most senior diplomat warned UK troops could be stuck fighting in Afghanistan for â€˜decadesâ€™.
Sir Nigel Sheinwald, the ambassador to Washington, warned Britain faced a â€˜long-term commitmentâ€™ in the country.
Sir Nigelâ€™s bleak assessment came after the bloodiest month of fighting, during which 22 British troops were killed.
His warning that the campaign could drag on for â€˜decadesâ€™ is the longest timetable ever given by a senior British figure.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, Sir Nigel said: â€˜Weâ€™re going to have a very long-term commitment to Afghanistanâ€™s future. This is not just one year.
â€˜This is going to be for decades. Weâ€™re going to help them get to a state which can they can ward off the return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.â€™
Sir Nigelâ€™s comments came amid mounting speculation that Britain is going to be asked to send an extra 2,000 troops. U.S. General Stanley
McChrystal, who is conducting a review mission there, is reported to want the Afghan army and police increased from 150,000 to around 400,000 - which would require an extra 12,000 military trainers.
But a hard-hitting report by MPs yesterday warned that troops in Afghanistan are suffering from â€˜mission creepâ€™.
The Foreign Affairs Select Committee said the armed forces had been burdened with an ever-growing list of responsibilities since 2001.
It warned soldiers should be concentrating on protecting security rather than tackling drugs or bolstering human rights and state-building.
The MPs said bad planning by the Government and a lack of direction meant the mission – which has cost 191 British lives – has been undermined.
Mr Rammell dismissed the criticism. The Defense Minister said: â€˜We are focused on security and I think, with respect, the Foreign Affairs Committee is a bit behind the game.â€™
However, he added: â€˜I will acknowledge that the scale of the challenge from insurgents in Helmand province is greater than we anticipated. We are responding to that.â€™