The US agrees: only a 'surge' can beat Taliban

American officials have backed the view of General Sir David Richards, the new head of the British Army, that a "surge" is needed in Afghanistan to beat the Taliban.

Patrick Moon, the United States' deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, said that the extra troops were essential to carry out a security drive in the country.

Mr Moon, who met British officials on his way to Kabul, pointed out that General David McKiernan, the head of Nato forces in Afghanistan, had requested reinforcement. "The troops will have to be found. US is sending a marine battalion and an army combat brigade and we are asking our Nato allies to contribute as well."

The Independent revealed yesterday that General Richards would replace General Sir Richard Dannatt as the head of the Army – he will take over next summer – and disclosed that the new commander believed 30,000 more troops would be needed to fight the Taliban. He is seeking 5,000 extra British troops. Mr Moon said that security needed to be established before the Afghan elections next year, and also to break the "nexus" of drug barons and the Taliban who are cultivating opium to fund the insurgency. "The numbers in the Afghan army will be raised from 65,000 to 134,000 over a five-year period," he added.

Helmand, the centre of British operations, is expected to be the focus of counter-narcotics operations next year.

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