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Britons believe 'Afghan war is failing'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 October 2009

An overwhelming 84 per cent believe British troops are currently losing the war in Afghanistan, a Channel 4 News poll finds, as thousands march on London urging an end to the conflict.

An anti-war placard (picture: Reuters)

Almost half of the UK public believe that military victory in Afghanistan is impossible and significant majorities think British troops are not winning the war and should be withdrawn either immediately or within the next year, according to a poll published today.

The YouGov survey for Channel 4 News was released as thousands of protesters gathered in London to call on the government to bring the 9,000-strong British force in Afghanistan home.

Today's poll uncovered a much more pessimistic attitude towards the conflict than in a similar survey in 2007, when 36 per cent said that victory was not possible.

Just 6 per cent of those taking part in today's poll said that British troops were winning the war, compared with 36 per cent who said they were not winning yet but eventual victory was possible, and 48 per cent who said that victory was not possible.

The figures suggested an overwhelming 84 per cent believe that British troops are not winning the war with Taliban militias at present.

Asked when British troops should be brought home from Afghanistan, 25 per cent said "immediately" and 37 per cent said most should be withdrawn soon, with the remainder pulling out within a year or so.

Some 29 per cent said the UK force should remain "as long as Afghanistan's Government wants them there", compared with the total 62 per cent who wanted them withdrawn immediately or in the coming year.

The poll suggests that the public mood is at odds with government policy that Britain and its Nato allies should see through their mission in Afghanistan and keep troops in the country until responsibility for its security can be handed over to home-grown forces in a process known as Afghanisation.

Only last week, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was ready to send a further 500 troops, so long as they could be properly equipped and form part of a Nato-wide reinforcement with each ally bearing its "fair share".

Anti-war protesters march

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who is facing court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan, became one of the first serving soldiers to attend an anti-war demonstration since the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

He joined thousands of former colleagues, military families and anti-war protesters for a rally and march through central London, calling for British troops to be brought home.

L/Cpl Glenton said: "I am marching to send a message to Gordon Brown. Instead of sending more troops, he must bring them all home. He cannot sit on his hands and wait while more and more of my comrades are killed."

A total of 222 British troops have died since operations in Afghanistan began.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, vice-chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "The war in Afghanistan has no clear war aims, is clearly escalating and spinning out of control and can only impact on Pakistan and the whole of South Asia.

"Nato forces have been in Afghanistan for eight years and the result appears to be increased drug production, high levels of corruption and terrible losses of life on all sides, civilian and military.

"Now is the time to change policy and bring the troops home to prevent Nato involving itself in a Vietnam-style quagmire."

L/Cpl Glenton will join the march along with Paul McGurk, who left the Army last month because he could no longer support the war.

Also expected to attend was Peter Brierley - father of Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley who was killed in Iraq - who earlier this month refused to shake Tony Blair's hand, saying it had "my son's blood on it".

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