Britain's top military commander in Afghanistan said in an interview Sunday the war against the Taliban cannot be won and the public should not expect a "decisive military victory," British press reported.
Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying, that people should "lower their expectations" about how the conflict will end, adding only if the Taliban were willing to talk could progress be made.
"We're not going to win this war. It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army," he told the newspaper.
Carleton-Smith said his forces had "taken the sting out of the Taliban for 2008" but said it would be "unrealistic and probably incredible" to think that the multinational forces in Afghanistan could rid the country of armed bands.
"We may well leave with there still being a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency... I don't think we should expect that when we go there won't be roaming bands of armed men in this part of the world," he said.
Insurgency must be defeated
Afghanistan's Defense Minister expressed his disappointment on Sunday at the commander's statements, maintaining the insurgency had to be defeated.
"I think this is the personal opinion of that commander," Abdul Rahim Wardak told reporters.
"The main objective of the Afghan government and the whole international community is that we have to defeat this war of terror and be successful," he said.
Wardak said success also depended on how British forces were approaching the problems they faced in Helmand but did not say whether their current strategy was the right one.
Britain has around 8,000 troops based in Afghanistan, most of them in the volatile southern province of Helmand, where they face daily battles with a growing insurgency.
NATO commanders and diplomats have been saying for some time that the Taliban insurgency cannot be defeated by military means alone and that negotiations with the militants will ultimately be needed to bring an end to the conflict.
But a Taliban spokesman said on Sunday there would be no negotiations with foreigners and repeated calls made by Taliban commanders for the unconditional withdrawal of the more than 70,000 international troops from Afghanistan.
"They should know that Taliban will never hold talks with the invaders," Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan news agency, AIP.
"What we had said in the past, we also say once again, that foreign forces should leave without any condition," he said.
Violence in Afghanistan has increased to its worst level since 2001, when the U.S. overthrew the ruling Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.