Britons to continue Afghan mission

SHINGTON: Britons will continue supporting their country's mission in Afghanistan despite polls showing a majority want British troops withdrawn, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband predicted Wednesday.

Miliband, speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said the British people understood how "vital" the mission is because "they know that Afghanistan was the incubator for global terrorism."

He referred to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

"I think the British people will stay with this mission because there is a clear strategy and a clear determination on behalf of the United States and other coalition members to see this through," he added.

"The military side of the equation is essential," he said.

He repeated earlier remarks that coalition troops will help boost stability to allow for political progress.

An opinion poll published in London Tuesday showed most Britons believe the increasingly bloody war in Afghanistan is "unwinnable" and want troops pulled out.

Clinton said she and Miliband talked at length about the situation in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama's administration has put efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan -- torn by a revived Taliban insurgency -- at the heart of the US struggle to defeat terrorism worldwide.

In an interview Tuesday with PBS television, Miliband defended Britain's deployment of 9,000 troops to Afghanistan -- the largest foreign contribution after the United States -- against a loss of British public support.

"We say that this mission is in Britain's national security interest," Miliband told the US network when asked what his government tells a British public that is increasingly calling for their withdrawal.

"Nearly three-quarters of the terrorist plots that have been either taken place or foiled against the UK (United Kingdom) have their links into the badlands between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Britain's top diplomat said.

He added that the 42-member international military coalition must remain in Afghanistan until Afghan security forces can take over.

Britain's top diplomat refused to rule out further British troop deployments to Afghanistan.