Afghanistan explosives haul hailed

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The Independent Online

British troops in Afghanistan have seized explosives which would have made 300 bombs over the past four months, the military's top officer in the country said today.

Brigadier Ed Davis hailed the capture of the lethal haul which could have been used to kill and maim UK soldiers.

He said: "Since we have been here we have interdicted just over 2.5 tons of home-made explosive, which equates to about two months of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which is about 300 in total."

Brig Davis, who commands Task Force Helmand and leads 3 Commando Brigade, said 40% of IEDs uncovered by UK troops were found after tip-offs from Afghan villagers.

He said 16 low-level Taliban commanders had been killed or captured since 3 Commando Brigade deployed to Helmand in April.

"Quite a few of the others have moved back into Pakistan so they're not there to command their fighters in the field," said Brig Davis.

"The insurgents are fractured in terms of command and control."

He added: "There is a demoralised and reduced will to fight among the insurgents today."

Speaking to reporters in London via a video link from British headquarters at the provincial capital Lashkar Gar, Brig Davis insisted the British effort to confront the Taliban was succeeding.

He said: "We are maintaining momentum.

"I believe the campaign is on track and, looking back on the first 12 weeks of the fighting season, we very much suppressed the fighting season."

Brig Davis said attacks on UK soldiers in Helmand had fallen 43% compared with the same period last year - meaning 70 fewer attacks each week.

He said the figure was adjusted to take account of the British pullout from the notorious Sangin district last year where more than 100 UK troops were killed.

But Brig Davis admitted successes against the insurgency in rural Helmand could be reversed, saying: "It's still a long way off defeated and still reversible in every way in my area of operation, apart from metropolitan Lashkar Gar."

Prime Minister David Cameron has set a deadline of 2014 for the withdrawal of all British fighting troops, with the conflict claiming the lives of 378 British service personnel since the start of operations in 2001.

Brig Davis said Afghans were fed up of the bloodshed which has hit their country since the US-led invasion 10 years ago which followed the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"The people are increasingly tired of fighting: fighting themselves in support of the insurgency or having fighting going on around them," he said.

"They are really looking for a better offer."

But Brig Davis warned Taliban fighters would continue to focus on launching terrorist "spectaculars" and attempting to assassinate Afghan government ministers as insurgents lost battles with coalition forces.