British troops must not “cut and run” from Afghanistan and will stay in the war-torn country for “as long as it takes”, the new Chief of the Defence Staff has said.
General Sir David Richards ruled out a reduction in Britain’s current force of 10,000 before 2012 and claimed Britain would be “shouldering the burden” over the coming year.
He also suggested that up to 1,000 troops could need to stay in Afghanistan in training roles beyond 2015.
Speaking to The Sun newspaper, Sir David, 58, said: “We are in a demanding part of Afghanistan and therefore, inevitably, we’re going to be shouldering the burden at least through next year.
“After 2015, we’ll be in a supporting role. But we’ve expended so much time, effort and, yes, lives on this.
“The worst of all things would be to get out before we finish the job properly, for want of 1,000 trainers to keep them going for another couple of years.”
The former head of the Army, who took over the most senior military job from Sir Jock Stirrup last week, added: “I’m absolutely clear. We really mean it when we say we will be there for as long as it takes. It’s so important that we establish in the minds of the Afghan people and of those in the region that Nato is not going to cut and run in Afghanistan.
“If they thought that for one minute, why would the Afghans continue to fight on their own behalf? Why wouldn’t they succumb to Taliban pressure?”
A provisional timetable for Afghans to take control of security across their 34 provinces will be set at a major Nato summit that begins in Lisbon on November 19.
Sir David claimed sending troops into Afghanistan nine years ago was the correct thing to do, but the Government still needed to convince people it is a “good war”.