`West can never defeat al Qaeda, militant Islam`

Top Brit General said Islamist militancy could be "contained", not defeated.

London: The new head of Britain`s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, has warned that the West cannot defeat al Qaeda and militant Islam.

The Telegraph quoted General Richards as saying that defeating Islamist militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved". However, he argued that it could be "contained" to allow Britons to lead secure lives.

He also said that the threat posed by "al Qaeda and its affiliates" meant Britain`s national security would be at risk for at least 30 years, adding that the West`s war against what he described as a "pernicious ideology" is similar to the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

"In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation’s capital. First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat it (Islamist militancy) in the sense of a clear cut victory? I would argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved,” the paper quoted the general, as saying.

"But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children`s lives are led securely? I think we can," he asked.

He further stated that the real weapon in the war against al Qaeda was the use of "upstream prevention" as well as "education and democracy”, and added that the problems that gave rise to militant Islamism were unlikely to be solved soon.

On the issue of future wars, the general said he could see no case for military intervention in other countries "at the moment" but added that he would be "barmy to say that one day we wouldn’t be back in that position," the paper said.

He also said that the British military and the Government had been "guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake" in Afghanistan and admitted that the Afghan people were beginning to "tire" of NATO`s inability to deliver on its promises.

However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, "has been worth it". Progress was being made and NATO was "in the right parish". He said: "Don`t give up folks, it`s all to play for."