Brown left me fearful, officer tells US general

The Ministry of Defence intervened last night after an RAF officer used a high-profile speech by the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan to suggest that Gordon Brown had dented her confidence in the Afghan campaign.

Flight Lieutenant Victoria Anderton spoke out after US General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, delivered a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

"I'm actually going out to Kandahar to serve with the Tornado GR4s next year," she told the General after he asked for questions from the floor.

"Can I say how much more confidence I have now in my chain of command than I had after Prime Minister Gordon Brown was here a couple of weeks ago."

General McChrystal thanked her "for a great question from one professional to another" but did not rise to her comments.

In a statement later, the MoD said it welcomed the debate on Afghanistan but insisted that there was "clear agreement" between Mr Brown and General McChrystal on the way forward in the country.

"The Prime Minister met General McChrystal in late August in Afghanistan and there was clear agreement on the importance of further 'Afghanisation' of the effort including accelerated training of the Afghan security forces," it said. General McChrystal has asked for between 20,000 and 40,000 extra troops for what has been described as a "defining time" in the conflict.

However, reports in the US suggest Barack Obama is being warned about leading America into another Vietnam and the White House has stated that it would take many weeks for all policy options to be considered. Vice-President Joe Biden believes that the troop numbers should be cut.

Britain, too, appeared to be backing away from sending more troops in the near future. The Defence Secretary, Bob Ainsworth, said: "The UK cannot allow the deployment of troops to outstrip the supply of equipment which allows them to do their job and minimises the risk they face.

"Before I agree to any increase in troop numbers, I must be sure that the balance of risk is acceptable by evaluating the capacity of the supply chain to properly equip an increased force."

Mr Ainsworth noted at the Labour conference in Brighton that equipment shortages – a common criticism of the Government – would be worsened by rushing more troops into theatre. "The kit and equipment they need to do this job doesn't come from Marks and Spencer. It has to be ordered through a very complex procurement process".

His Cabinet colleague, Foreign Secretary David Miliband urged other governments to "recommit" to the war, in which more than 200 British soldiers have died.

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