Troop surge to break Afghan 'stalemate'

Allied commander says next year will be 'defining moment'

British forces in southern Afghanistan are locked in a "stalemate" with Taliban insurgents and they need tens of thousands of reinforcements to win, the American commander of Nato forces in the country said yesterday.

The extra troops would be used in a radical overhaul of Western strategy in the country next year – a period described as a "defining moment" in the ongoing war. The Independent revealed two months ago that General Sir David Richards, the new head of the British Army, believed a surge of up to 30,000 extra troops was needed to fight the Taliban.

Yesterday, General David McKiernan, the commander of the US-led Nato coalition, confirmed that an offensive was indeed on the way.

Most of the 20,000 American reinforcements being sent to the country will be poured into Helmand to join the 8,000 British troops already there with additional forces for the "surge" coming from the newly trained Afghan army. The UK is likely to send between 2,000 and 5,000 more troops once the withdrawal from Iraq is completed in the summer. Although no decisions have been officially made yet on deployment, senior Whitehall sources say there is little doubt that the Government will agree to an expected call from President Barack Obama, once he moves into the White House, for further help in Afghanistan.

The reinforcements are likely to be sent in preparation for the Afghan elections in September, with protections of the polling seen as crucial to Nato's credibility in its first mission outside Europe.

A series of meetings has already taken place between British and American commanders about planning a new strategy in the war under the overall command of the US General David Petraeus who has been credited with improving security in Iraq through a "surge".

The blueprint being worked out states much more emphasis must be placed on reconstruction and governance as well as upping the stakes militarily. Stressing the seriousness of the situation General McKiernan, while insisting that the insurgents were not winning, admitted that the country was at a "tipping point".

He said: "2009 is going to be a critical year for this campaign. It's elections here and a new administration in the US. It is a chance for the international community to stay committed and a window of opportunity to increase contributions."

Talking about Helmand, the base of British operations, General McKiernan said: "There are areas where we are, at best, in a stalemate. We still have a tough fight in the south and the south-west and we simply do not have enough security forces there."

America has promised to divert thousands of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, to boost international efforts against the Taliban. The first soldiers are expected to arrive in January, when Mr Obama takes office.

"I have asked the United States for an additional three brigade combat teams," General McKiernan said. "That's something in excess of 20,000 troops and they need to be focused in the south and south-west."

Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has accused Britain of making matters worse in Helmand, by alienating local people. The province is where most of Afghanistan's opium poppies are grown.

His spokesman, Humayoun Hamidzada, said: "We have lost a major part of Helmand to the Taliban. We have very little presence there. British military forces are restricted to the military bases and the Taliban are gaining more ground."

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker