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NATO Not Losing Afghan War, Commander Says

U.S. General David McKiernan
KABUL (Reuters) -- NATO is not losing the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but there are not enough troops to provide sufficient security for the people, the commander of international troops in Afghanistan has said.

Spiraling and seemingly unending violence in Afghanistan has led to a number of military and political leaders issuing dire warnings for the country where at least 4,000 people, one-third of them civilians, have been killed in this year alone.

"We are not losing in Afghanistan," General David McKiernan told a news conference. But, he said, "we have insufficient security forces here to adequately provide for the security of the people of Afghanistan."

The commander of British troops in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, last week said NATO was not going to win the war, but the aim was to reduce the insurgency to a level where it could be managed by Afghan forces.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates dismissed the British brigadier's comments as "defeatism."

McKiernan said what was most needed was more Afghan soldiers and police, but until those forces were large enough and capable of ensuring security, the will of the international community to continue to send troops to fight remained paramount.

McKiernan last month said he needed three more brigades plus support units -- possibly some 15,000 troops -- on top of 4,000 extra U.S. troops already scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan.

"I do believe that the people of Afghanistan will win in this country. It's not as fast and even as all of us would like it to be. But we will win, and win means the people of Afghanistan will win," he said.