'Streets safer' after Afghan mission, says General Sir Nicholas Houghton

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Media captionGen Sir Nicholas Houghton: "There's a genuine sense that the primary mission has been achieved,

The UK's top military officer says the "streets of the United Kingdom are safer" because of the Afghan mission.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton said the "prime strategic purpose" of having troops in the country had been achieved.

"In the last 13/14 years there has not been a single international terrorist attack launched from Afghanistan," he said.

Britain's 13-year war in Afghanistan ended last month.

More than 450 UK troops died during the conflict, and as the final UK forces left the country, BBC polls found that 68% of people in the UK said involvement had not been worthwhile for the country.

'Potent enemy'

But Sir Nicholas told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "The prime strategic purpose of our being in Helmand, and all international security forces in Afghanistan, has been achieved - that of denying Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorism, such that the streets of the United Kingdom are safer.

"Indeed, in the last 13/14 years there has not been a single international terrorist attack launched from Afghanistan."

UK troops in Afghanistan


UK troops served


Total operational cost

  • 453 UK troops killed

  • 108 died in 2009 - the worst year

  • 470 mentors staying on


Despite the "sense of loss and grief and sacrifice" for the troops who lost their lives, he said: "I think there is a genuine sense that the primary mission has been achieved and we are leaving a country with a legacy of significant hope."

The threat to the UK was "an enduring one, but it is one that we are successfully controlling", he added, describing Islamic State, which has seized much of Iraq and Syria, as a "potent enemy".

'Tall order'

Security was tighter than usual in London as thousands of people flocked to the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

Asked about concerns people may feel about attending events across the country, Sir Nicholas said: "We have just got to keep continuing our normal life.

"The last thing that we at all would want to do is succumb to any sense that there is a terrorist threat there that is at all going to stop the British way of life."

Sir Nicholas also said there had been some "early glitches" in the attempt to recruit 30,000 Army reservists to plug the gap left by regular troops.

The government wants to expand the Army Reserve to 30,000 by 2018, to offset cuts of 20,000 regular troops.

Sir Nicholas said the numbers recruited to date were not as high as hoped.

He said: "30,000 by 2018 was always going to be quite a tall order, and there have been some early glitches in that campaign to recruit those."

But he added: "There's much to be confident about - our numbers are growing."

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