Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Helmand Commander positive on Afghan progress

Brigadier Andrew Mackay, OC 52 Infantry Brigade, has spoken of the progress British troops are making in southern Afghanistan. In an interview on BBC Radio 4 he explained that winning the consent of the Afghan people was key to achieving ultimate success. He also highlighted the progress made by the Army in training the local security forces as being equally vital for future peace in Aghanistan "Key is the gradual improvement within the Afghan National Army. Now, following on that is the Afghan National Police. I think everyone accepts that’s got some way to go before it catches up with the ANA. But if you take the retaking of Musa Qaleh, the ANA played an integral part in that operation. That would have been unthinkable back in 2001."
Brigadier Mackay also said: "My first concern is always for the families of those soldiers who’ve been injured, the soldiers themselves; are they being looked after well enough? I think we do enjoy the wide public support for what we’re doing. I think it has entered the sort of British public consciousness that what we’re doing is a tough job, the casualties are an inevitable part of what we do but we seek to mitigate those casualties at all steps of the way."
The views of Brigadier Mackay were echoed by Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup when he said during a BBC Radio 4 interview: "What is clear is, if you look at where we were 18 months ago in Helmand and you look at where we are now, you see that there has been what I would almost categorise as dramatic progress." He continued: "The military line is crucial in enabling people to deliver that political development, but unless it is delivered we will not have strategic success. So for me, the key issues at the moment are ...... ensuring all the non-military elements of the campaign, in particular over the next 12 months to improve the overall effectiveness of the justice system, dealing with corruption and issues like this."