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Asia-pacific

Most Britons believe Afghan war to be 'unwinnable,' poll says

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-28

A new poll reveals that most Britons think the war in Afghanistan is "unwinnable" and want UK troops to pull out. The findings come a day after Britain announced the end of Operation Panther's Claw, its offensive in southern Afghanistan.

AFP - Most Britons believe the increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan is "unwinnable" and want troops pulled out, a poll suggested Tuesday, as more soldiers' bodies were flown home.
   
The dead servicemen were set to be honoured a day after Britain announced the end of a deadly offensive in southern Afghanistan and outlined a change of strategy in the country following a sharp spike in deaths.
   
Foreign Secretary David Miliband signalled Monday that Britain would back talking to moderate Taliban representatives in a bid to isolate militant insurgents who have killed 191 British troops since 2001.
   
A total of 22 have been killed this month alone after British forces went on the offensive in Operation Panther's Claw, just weeks before crucial presidential elections.
   
Four more fallen soldiers' bodies were flown home to RAF Lyneham, southwest England, before a solemn procession through the nearby village of Wootton Bassett.
   
The ceremonies in the town -- which has become a focus of grief and support for British troops -- come after two more soldiers were killed Monday in the troubled Helmand province, the frontline in the battle with the Taliban.
   
The surge in troop deaths has sparked a political row over resources for troops in Afghanistan, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown forced to defend Britain's strategy after calls for more equipment and boosted soldier numbers.
   
But according to a poll in the Independent newspaper Tuesday, more than half of Britons now think the war in Afghanistan is "unwinnable" and want troops to be withdrawn immediately.
   
Fifty-eight percent see the offensive against the Taliban as a lost cause. Only 31 percent disagree, according to the ComRes telephone poll conducted for the newspaper between July 24 and 26.
   
Fifty-two percent of the 1,008 Britons polled want the troops out while 43 percent want them to stay put.
   
Britain has around 9,150 troops in Afghanistan, the vast majority fighting Taliban militants in troubled Helmand.
   
In a keynote speech at NATO headquarters in Brussels Monday, Miliband reiterated Britain's call for other countries to do more -- while stressing the need for the Afghan government to engage with moderate Taliban elements.
   
"We need to help the Afghan government exploit the opportunity, with a more coherent effort to fragment the various elements of the insurgency and turn those who can be reconciled to live within the Afghan constitution," he said.
   
The British military insisted Monday that the first phase of Panther's Claw was a success, with 3,000 British-led troops inflicting heavy losses on the Taliban since the operation was launched in late June.
   
In the latest violence in Helmand province Tuesday, eight local security guards were killed by an insurgent bomb, the interior ministry said.
   
There are about 90,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan helping local forces, with thousands most recently deployed to the south to try and secure the restive area ahead of presidential polls on August 20.
   
The ballots, a key test of US and NATO-backed efforts to install democracy in Afghanistan after decades of war and conflict, will be only the second time that Afghans elect a president.
   
President Hamid Karzai is favourite to win a second term, but has come under fire from his rivals in the election for not doing more to improve security in the country since he assumed office after the 2001 fall of the Taliban.

Date created : 2009-07-28

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