British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Afghanistan Monday and expressed the great will of NATO and coalition troops to defeat the Taliban.
At an open-air joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Blair said the Taliban are going to try and test the will of NATO and coalition troops, but that "we have to prove to them that our will is great nevertheless."
Blair, on his second visit to the war-torn country since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, said, "They (The Taliban) will not succeed if we show the will, and if together we and the Afghan people make the reconstruction and development, economic and social progress happen."
The Taliban displayed a surprisingly strong resurgence this year in Afghanistan as the insurgency has claimed 3,700 lives, a rate four times greater than last year.
Blair said Western countries ignored Afghanistan for a long time, but eventually turned their attention here after terrorists harbored here launched assaults, such as the Sept. 11 attacks, toward them.
"We were forced to recognize we couldn't ignore what was happening in this part of the world," the prime minister said, adding "the problem of Afghanistan is a problem for the world."
Britain has deployed about 6,000 troops as part of the 31,000-strong NATO forces in Afghanistan, while about 10,000 US-led coalition troops also stay here.
The bulk of the British soldiers are stationed in the southern Helmand province, infamous for its Taliban stronghold and gigantic opium production.
A total of 41 British troops have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led Afghan war began, while 36 deaths have occurred since the troops' deployment to Helmand in July, according to Blair's office.
Amid the high casualties over the past months, Blair tried to boost British soldiers' morale. "We know that the only way to secure peace sometimes is to be prepared to fight for it," he said when he visited a British military base in Helmand earlier.
At the joint press conference, both Blair and Karzai said Afghanistan has made great progress in the past five years, and more people have come to support the government instead of the Taliban.
Karzai said Afghans are "in a hurry" to build a better future, while Blair said NATO and the Afghan government would remove any temptation for people to join the Taliban if emphasis was placed on reconstruction, development, economic progress and security.
(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2006)