THOUSANDS of British troops could still be in Afghanistan battling the Taleban in 20 years’ time, the future commander of UK forces in the country has said.
Brigadier Andrew Mackay, the head of the Scottish-based 52 Infantry Brigade, made the grim admission in an exclusive interview with The Scotsman before flying out to the war-torn Helmand province to assume command of more than 7,000 British soldiers.
Britain is spearheading NATO’s international security assistance force in Afghanistan, which aims to support the democratic Afghan government against a resurgent Taleban militia.
Originally conceived as a low-key reconstruction mission, British troops now find themselves regularly involved in bloody close-quarters fighting which some commanders say is the heaviest UK forces have faced since the Korean War.
The British mission in Afghanistan is formally due to end in 2009, but the ferocity of the resistance and the fragility of Afghan democracy mean UK forces could still be on the ground in large numbers in two decades’ time, Brig Mackay said.
UK troops ‘face a 20-year battle in Afghanistan’