LONDON: Building up Afghanistan from its present “medieval status” will take decades, the head of the UK armed forces warned. The Chief of the Defense Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said that while the military would need to be in the country for “some years”, the civilian reconstruction effort will take much longer. In a speech to journalists at Westminster, central London, he emphasized that the key to long-term success in the country was establishing effective civilian governance.
“This is a gradual process, this is not something that could be done in one, two or three years because we are talking about a country that is essentially medieval, that has very little in the way of infrastructure, very little in the way of human resource, that has an endemic culture of corruption”, he said.
He added that even if Afghanistan was to continue at its present “good” rate of economic growth, it would still be 15 years before it reached the level that Bangladesh is at now. “This truly is a long-term Endeavour. I don’t think it is that long-term an Endeavour for the military. I think we are talking about some years but we are not talking about decades”. While he acknowledged that the Western coalition faced a “mammoth problem” in Afghanistan, the Chief of the Defense Staff said that it was important not to be put off by the scale of the difficulties.
Air Chief Marshal Stirrup said he was “disappointed” that other NATO allies had not been prepared to send more troops to the south and east of the country where British, American and Canadian forces have borne the brunt of the fighting. While he said that the Taliban were in “an extremely bad way” militarily, he warned they still had the capacity to launch effective attacks using suicide bombers and improvised roadside devices, as the recent deaths of seven British soldiers had shown.
“They can still mount very serious asymmetric attacks. We don’t take that lightly”, he concluded. At least 106 British servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan. More than 7,000 UK troops are deployed in the country, mainly in the trouble southern Helmand Province.-SANA