General warns against Afghanistan troop withdrawal

Britain's most senior general in Afghanistan has cautioned against any significant troop withdrawal until late next year, it was reported today.

General James Bucknall said the coalition had to hold on to recent gains, and should not send "conflicting signals" about its commitment.

The intervention comes amid debate over when the military surge implemented by US President Barack Obama should be wound down.

David Cameron announced earlier this month that around 450 UK personnel are to be pulled out by the end of the year, and there have been hints that further cuts could follow.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden has added impetus to calls for operations to be scaled back.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Gen Bucknall - deputy to US General David Petraeus in Afghanistan - said the 140,000 Nato troops now deployed could be cut this year by trimming roles such as cooks and engineers.

But "in broadest terms", the reinforcements which arrived last year had to stay, he said.

"The coalition has had a good winter. We have got to hold on to what we have gained and hold that over this fighting season," he said.

"What we are doing is reaping the benefits of having the resources in place to match the strategy we have always had. Many of those resources only hit the ground in autumn 2010.

"We need, in broadest terms, that set of resources in place for two winters and two fighting seasons, which would mean we are talking about autumn 2012.

"This is not the time to send conflicting signals on commitment to the campaign."

There has been a spike in violence over the past fortnight as the Taliban has begun its usual spring offensive following the end of the opium poppy harvest.

Gen Bucknall said months of nightly special forces raids had weakened the insurgency by capturing or killing leaders and seizing caches of arms and explosives.

"It would be fair to say the insurgency is under greater pressure than it has ever been before but ... we expect (the insurgencies) to come back hard and their main focus of effort will likely be Kandahar and Helmand," he added.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "Afghanistan remains our top priority. UK forces will no longer be in a combat role or in the present numbers by 2015 but may remain to train and mentor the Afghan forces after that.

"UK forces are continuing to make progress against the insurgency and also in training the Afghan National Security Forces.

"However, UK forces are in the most difficult part of Afghanistan and what we cannot do is to see a reduction in our combat troops until we are sure that we've got sufficient and lasting security."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?