Commander expects no clear Afghan victory: report
Agence France-Presse
Published: Saturday October 4, 2008

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LONDON (AFP) — The top military commander in Afghanistan said in an interview Sunday the public should not expect "decisive military victory" there, only the reduction of the insurgency to manageable levels.

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which has just completed its second tour in Afghanistan, told the Sunday Times that people should "lower their expectations" about how the conflict will end.

He also said Britons should prepare for a possible deal with the Taliban.

"We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army," he told the newspaper.

Carleton-Smith said his forces had "taken the sting out of the Taliban for 2008" but said it would be "unrealistic and probably incredible" to think that the multinational forces in Afghanistan could rid the country of armed bands.

"We may well leave with there still being a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency... I don't think we should expect that when we go there won't be roaming bands of armed men in this part of the world," he said.

The brigadier added: "If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that's precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this.

"That shouldn't make people uncomfortable."

Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US-led operations.