A senior British officer has played down a US general's blunt warning that the Taliban are drawing "sustenance" from plans to begin withdrawing foreign troops next year.
General James Conway, head of the US Marines, said insurgents in Afghanistan had received a morale boost from president Barack Obama's announcement that US forces will start pulling out in July 2011.
Referring to the deadline, he said: "In some ways, we think right now it's probably giving our enemy sustenance. We think that he may be saying to himself, 'Hey, you know, we only have to hold out for so long'."
Prime Minister David Cameron has also said he hopes some British forces can start pulling out of Afghanistan as early as next year.
UK military spokesman Major General Gordon Messenger said he was not concerned about the withdrawal timetable affecting operations - and stressed that Nato forces would remain in the country "until the job is done".
He said he was confident there was "enough conditionality" in the deadlines and that security conditions in individual areas would be key to deciding how many international troops were needed.
Maj Gen Messenger told reporters at the Ministry of Defence in London that there would also be a "steady growth" in numbers of Afghan soldiers and police as the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) prepared to pull out.
"It does not take too many brains to work out that the less-secure areas are going to be at the tail end of any reduction in Isaf investment," he said.
"Whether or not there is sustenance or succour on the ground, I think is for the Taliban.
"But I think the key thing is what is actually going to happen in reality, and what is going to happen in reality is the international forces will be in these areas until the job is done."