LONDON – Hundreds of British troops are in the Middle East preparing to join the fight against terrorism.
And no matter how long the battle rages, Britain's dedication won’t waver, military officials said Saturday.
"We are in it for the long haul," Adm. Sir Michael Boyce, Britain's chief of defense staff said, according The Independent newspaper. "If it takes three or four years, then it takes three or four years."
The military operation is the toughest Britain had faced since the Korean War, Boyce said, and he compared the anti-terrorism crusade to the Cold War.
The Afghanistan operation could last years, and the fight against global terrorism could last 50 years, the admiral was also quoted saying in several Saturday newspapers.
"The war against communism took 50 years to win, and I wonder if we shouldn't be thinking of it like that," he said, according to The Daily Telegraph.
In a radio interview Saturday from Oman, Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said that the resilience of the Taliban to sustained Allied attacks will be a crucial factor in the length of the war.
"I don't really think it's sensible to put a timetable on it," Hoon said.
"It could be that the Taliban's fanaticism takes them through into the New Year," Hoon told the British Broadcasting Corp. "It could equally be that as a result of the sustained pressure being brought to bear on them, that they collapse overnight."
Hoon spoke from Oman while visiting British troops as they completed military exercises. Britain said Friday that 600 of its special forces troops now in Oman will be available for operations in Afghanistan.
Plans calls for 200 commandos operating from two assault ships, with 400 men from the same unit on standby in Britain.
The defense secretary gave further indications that plans call for sporadic lightning strikes by small, elite units, rather than an invasion and occupation of Afghan territory.
"Some days there will be a range of action that will be publicized," he said. "On other days the action will be less obvious, and people will be asking what's happening."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.