Wed, Nov 22, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Blair commits UK to Afghan fight


British Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged his nation's commitment in Afghanistan "for as long as it takes," telling British soldiers fighting the resurgent Taliban that success would help establish global security.

Blair said on Monday at a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul that British and NATO forces would likely remain in Afghanistan for years to come to prevent the Taliban's return to power.

"We came to Afghanistan because the sickness and the evil that was here came to us," Blair said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "I don't believe there is an alternative but to fight this and to fight it for as long as it takes."

Blair, on his first trip to Afghanistan since 2002, met with Karzai after visiting hundreds of troops at Britain's main southern base, Camp Bastion, in the restive southern Helmand Province -- a former Taliban stronghold and hub of the country's heroin trade.

"Here in this extraordinary desert is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out," Blair said.

Britain has around 6,000 soldiers deployed in the country.

A total of 41 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001 -- including 36 deaths since Britain's deployment to Helmand Province in July as part of the NATO mission to subdue insurgents and allow the expansion of reconstruction.

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