January 13th, 2008 10:05 EST
British troops could be in Afghanistan for decades
LONDON (AFP) - British troops could be in Afghanistan for decades, the country's Defence Secretary Des Browne said in comments published Sunday.
Asked by The People weekly newspaper when Britain's soldiers would withdraw from Afghanistan, Browne said: "We cannot risk it again becoming an ungoverned training haven for terrorists who threaten the UK.
"But there is only so much our forces can achieve. The job can only be completed by the international community working with the Afghan government and its army.
"It is a commitment which could last decades, although it will reduce over time."
Browne's comments echo those of the head of the army, senior figures in the security services and former prime minister Tony Blair that the battle against Islamist extremism could last a generation.
The current prime minister Gordon Brown visited British troops in southern Afghanistan last month and told President Hamid Karzai of Britain's commitment to the country's long-term success.
Britain has about 7,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 40,000-strong UN-sanctioned, NATO-led force aimed at helping reconstruction and fighting Taliban militia.