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'The enemy has the momentum in Afghanistan'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 24 June 2009

The man known to be the architect of America's surge of troops in Iraq, believes it will take 18 months for the western allies to take control in Afghanistan.

General Jack Keane

Channel 4 News has obtained exclusive pictures of the aftermath of a US airstrike in western Afghanistan.

The Afghan government claims up to 140 civilians were killed in the attack and the Americans have admitted it was a mistake.

General Jack Keane, who was vice chief of staff to the US Army between 1999 and 2003, told Channel 4 News: "The fact of the matter is the enemy has the momentum in Afghanistan, much as the enemy did in Iraq in 2006.

"The strategy in how to fight this war is changing. There are new leaders put in place to accomodate that change. There's a new ambassador there, there's a new Nato commander, the review and assessment of the stategy is taking place and there will be a transition in this leadership to gain the momentum over the enemy which will take us all of 2010 to do.

"It is not Iraq and one of the glaring issues is that the Iraqi people had a high tolerance for combat action and fighting that took place in most of the urban centres in Iraq.

"Fast forward to Afghanistan and the people have very little tolerance for any kind of conflict that is taking place in the villages, towns or cities. That is a very dramatic differnce and something we have to understand.

"We are now conducting a counter-offensive in terms of our strategy, the leadership and the growth of the Afghan national security forces, a greater commitment of Nato ground forces to this and that transition is going to take into 2010 as I see it.

"While some of that process may be familiar, what is happening on the ground is very different."

When asked how long foreign troops are likely to remain in Afghanistan, General Keane admitted it is impossible to predict how long it will take to achieve stability.

He said: "We certainly want a stable government that has connectivity to its people, has legitmacy because it is not fundamentally corrupt, enforces the rule of law and has some impact at the local level.

"Obviously we have to change the security situation at the local level so the people who do not want the Taliban, and that has been demonstrated in every survey that has been conducted, are free from the influence and terror campaign that the Taliban has.

"It is going to take some time. I don't know how long, but it is certainly going to take a few years. I think it will take a couple of years to change the momentum and then I think we'll see the momentum moving in our direction, similar to what happened in 2007 in Iraq and the counter-offensive."

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