Extra troops vital to Afghan mission success, says general

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The Independent Online

The head of the international force which has lost the most lives in Afghanistan has said that reinforcements are necessary to provide security and achieve a long-term settlement in the conflict.

Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, whose Canadian troops have proportionately suffered more fatalities that any other Nato contingent, spoke of the benefits from greater resources as Gordon Brown is due to announce his decision on the request from British commanders for additional forces.

Senior British officers had said they could send an additional force of 1,000. However, the Prime Minister is expected to announce that another 500 will be deployed and that this would depend on a series of conditions being met, including adequate supplies of equipment and other Western nations offering more support.

It is also a time of intense debate in the US over the request from General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, for between 20,000 and 40,000 more troops, with the warning that non-provision of additional resources may lead to " failure within a year".

The Canadian force is due to pull out in 2011. However, Gen-Leslie told The Independent that after spending £3bn on new equipment including armour and helicopters, and an upsurge in recruiting, his force would be ready to continue with the mission if ordered to do so by the government in Ottawa.

The 3,000 Canadian troops, based in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, have taken part in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, losing 137 personnel. American and UK commanders say their departure would pose major problems for Nato as some of the other contributing nations, such as Germany and Italy, have imposed restrictions on their troops which prevent them from taking part in much of the combat. Speaking during an official visit to London, Gen-Leslie said: "We are delighted to have British troops serve alongside us and we would be very happy if more are sent. But it is obviously up to the British Government to decide what they want to do."

The commander said that following losses inflicted by the Taliban, "we took a long, hard look at what needed to be done and I think we are now the best equipped of all Nato troops in Afghanistan".

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