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Gordon Brown Labels Latest Afghanistan Offensive a Success

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has hailed the British offensive in Afghanistan's Helmand province a success. But that call is getting a mixed reception as the British public grows weary of the country's involvement there.

For the past five weeks, British forces have been clearing the territory between Lashkar Gah and Girishk in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Nine British soldiers have died in the operation dubbed Panther's Claw.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is pleased with the results.

"Now that Operation Panther's Claw has shown that it can bring success and the first phase of that operation is over, it is time to commemorate all those soldiers who have given their lives and to thank all our British soldiers for the determination, the professionalism and the courage that they have been showing," said Mr. Brown.

And facing a skeptical public, the British leader reiterated his contention that fighting in Afghanistan is necessary to keep Britain safe.

"What we have actually done is make the land secure for about 100,000 people. What we have done is pushed back the Taliban and what we have done also is start to break that chain of terror that links the mountains of Afghanistan and in Pakistan to the streets of Britain," Mr. Brown said.

But international security expert Paul Cornish from the Chatham House in London says it is too early to call the British operation in Helmand province a success. Securing the land he says is one thing, holding it is another.

"They have gone through the past month or so of very hard effort to reach the point where they can begin to consolidate and control ground that they have won so, by no means this is over yet.... The effort has been to squeeze the Taliban out of certain areas and the challenge now is to hold those areas and maintain dominance of those areas that is surely what the whole operation has been, has been all about," Cornish said.

While talk of what success is and how to define it went on in London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told NATO colleagues in Brussels that the current operations should be seen as an opportunity to bring moderate Taliban members into the political process.

NATO has nearly 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, but few alliance members wholeheartedly support the deployment, with many questioning what the North Atlantic alliance is doing there in the first place.