NATO’s General Stanley McCrystal wants more British troops in Afghanistan

NATO’s new commander in Afghanistan said yesterday he wants more British troops to take on the Taliban.

Uk military chiefs hoped to send up to 2,000 more soldiers earlier this year but were overruled by the Treasury.

Now US General Stanley McCrystal, who is taking charge of Nato operations, has put more pressure on ministers.

The General praised the UK’s 8,000-plus force and said more would be welcome. He told the BBC: “I don’t know a general who would not like to see more forces, particularly forces as good as the British.”

Uk troops are bearing the brunt of an upsurge in Taliban activity

Attacks are up 70 per cent on last year, the majority in the war-torn southern province of Helmand where the force is based. Several hundred extra soldiers have been sent to improve security in the run-up to this summer’s presidential elections.

British commanders wanted a permanent force of around 10,000 but were told the credit crunch meant there was no cash to pay for the deployment.

The UK force will fall back to around 8,300 after the presidential poll in August.

General McCrystal stressed he regards them as one of the “essential pillars” of Nato’s operation.

“This is not an American-wholly war by any means,” he said. “It is a coalition.” And the General warned Nato troops are in for a long haul. “It will go on until we achieve the progress we want to achieve,” he said. “It won’t be short.”

He is reviewing the rules of engagement in a bid to cut civilian Afghan casualties. General McCrystal is also expected to go after Taliban lieutenants and step up the hunt for alQaeda chief Osama bin Laden.