Military commanders underestimated the insurgency in southern Afghanistan when British troops were sent there three years ago, a senior defence chief has admitted. General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman told The Times that the campaign had put the Army hugely under pressure. We thought that the insurgency still existed in Helmand, but the violence and scale has been shocking, the general said. We have made some progress but at a dickens of a cost in lives. General Granville-Chapman, who has just retired as Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, said that dispatching a single specialist brigade 16 Air Assault Brigade to Helmand province in 2006 seemed reasonable at the time because of the continuing commitment in Iraq. Now, he said, the number of British troops of about 9,000 was about the right figure for the period leading up to the Afghan presidential election next month. After that we will have to step back and see what is needed, Sir Timothy said. The Army had become an exceedingly complex and hazardous profession. Corporals in their 20s had to make decisions about whether to attack the enemy. If they made the wrong decision, the consequences for them would end up on the highest desks in the land. He said that the manpower of the Armed Forces should not be cut in next years defence review, but consideration would have to be given to reducing numbers of equipment types fewer fast jets and even possibly ordering only one of the proposed two 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers. Despite Britain sending just 3,300 troops in 2006, General Granville-Chapman said that they had succeeded in preventing the insurgents from meeting their strategic objective which was to oust us. One of the key elements of next years defence review would be to decide whether it was possible to carry out a medium-scale campaign for such an enduring period as in Afghanistan if there were other commitments elsewhere. He said that ministers might have to give up on the Armed Forces ever again taking part in a large-scale conflict, focusing instead on medium-range operations. Afghanistan had shown that the instruments of power and influence the military working with civilian officials and diplomats had to be in harmony. This was working well in Lashkar Gah in Helmand where the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-led provincial reconstruction team served alongside the military. But this has not yet been replicated in Whitehall, [in coordinating government strategy in Afghanistan] he said. The general admitted that after the general election ministers would need to reach harsh decisions about what to keep and what to axe. (The Times)