Peter Hoskin

Richards: we’re in it for the long haul

Richards: we're in it for the long haul
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General Sir David Richards does like thinking in decades, doesn't he? A year or so ago, he was warning us that "the whole process [in Afghanistan] might take as long as 30 to 40 years." Today, in interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he says that the wider battle against al-Qaeda could last around 30 years. In both cases, he deserves our attention. To hear the head of our military suggest that the West's current conflicts will stretch across generations is sobering, to say the least.

More noteworthy, though, is Richards' claim that a "clear cut victory" over Islamist terror is "unnecessary and would never be achieved" – but that we can "contain it to the point that our lives and our children's lives are led securely." As we approach the coalition's uncertain 2015 deadline for troops in Afghanistan, you can expect plenty more deliberation on just what counts as victory – and what counts as defeat – in the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.