Thursday, December 3, 2009
British general's warning to rebels: We'll hit Taliban 'till their eyes bleed
Barack Obama's pledge to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan ignited a ferocious war of words yesterday between allied military chiefs and Taliban warlords.
British Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb said the new surge into the battle-worn country will crush the insurgents.
Using fiery language, he added: "We are continuing to strike the Taliban, and have to, till their eyeballs bleed."
But defiant rebel leaders warned the fresh deployment will foster a new determination among the fighters to repel the Western troops and result in more allied deaths. One said: "Obama will witness lots of coffins heading to America from Afghanistan.
"Their hope to control Afghanistan by military means will not become reality. The extra 30,000 troops that will come to Afghanistan will provoke stronger resistance and fighting."
Another warlord warned: "I want to say to mothers of foreign soldiers: if you love your sons, then keep them at home. Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan and that means more Americans will die."
Us Defence Secretary Robert Gates responded by saying: "Failure in Afghanistan would mean a Taliban takeover of much of the country and likely a renewed civil war.
"Taliban-ruled areas could in short order become, once again, a sanctuary for al-Qaeda as well as a staging area for militant groups on the offensive in Pakistan."
Mr Obama outlined plans to start bringing US troops home by 2011. But Gordon Brown yesterday dashed hopes of an early withdrawal by British forces, insisting: "We will stay until the job is done."
Mr Obama said: "After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.
"These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan. I am convinced our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"This is the epicentre of the violent extremism practised by al-Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.
"This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat."
Mr Brown refused to put a timetable on the withdrawal of Britain's 9,500 soldiers.
He said: "There was no question of us withdrawing until the point that we were sure the Afghans could take over security control themselves. We will stay and do the job that is necessary."
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The PM urged Nato countries to contribute more troops to defeat the Taliban.
He said: "I call on all our allies to unite behind President Obama's strategy." Mr Obama has signalled he wants Nato allies to provide as many as 10,000 more men. But he faces resistance from France and Germany.
Lt Gen Lamb said SAS and SBS operations in Afghanistan have increased five-fold. Both crack units have been operating deep behind enemy lines trying to find enemy commanders and take out bombing teams.
But Taliban chiefs insist they will fight to the end and pointed to failed historical efforts by the British and Russians to secure Afghanistan. Since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, 237 British troops have died.
Britain's Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, said he was "delighted" with Mr Obama's strategy.
He added: "It's what all of us who have been involved in the operation in Afghanistan have assessed is required if we are to resource a plan to deliver the strategy which we have been holding to for some time now."
Us commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal, who had asked for 40,000 extra troops, welcomed Mr Obama's move. He said he had been given "a clear military mission" and the necessary resources.
Mr Gates revealed the first of the new US troops could be in Afghanistan in two to three weeks.
The funeral of rookie Rifleman Sam Bassett closed a city centre yesterday.
Sam, right, was killed by a bomb blast days after telling his family: "I'm having the time of my life." He was 20 and had been in Afghanistan for just a a month serving in 4th Battalion, The Rifles.
Rev Nick McKinnel told the congregation in St Andrew's church, Plymouth: "Whatever we think about the war, they are fighting on our behalf."
His dad Simon said: "I am so proud."
Special forces assassination squads will be deployed to pick off Taliban leaders
600 British Special Boat Service, SAS and Special Reconnaissance Regiment troops sent to track down key al-Qaeda cells along southern border badlands