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Winning in Afghanistan will take time: Hillier

Defeating the Taliban will be a difficult for NATO troops because of tactics used by the militants, Canada's top soldier said Friday.

Tactics used by Taliban militants will make defeating themmore difficultfor NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, Canada's chief of defence staff said on Friday.

Gen. Rick Hillier, on a visit to Afghanistan, said the Taliban deliberately blend with local populations in Afghanistan and therefore make it difficult for troops to pick out militants from among ordinary people.

Hillier was in Afghanistan on Fridayassessing the progress of Canada's mission to Afghanistan. Canada has more than 2,000 troops in the country, with the majority stationed in Kandahar. Thirty-six soldiers and one diplomat have been killed since Canada first sent troops to Afghanistan in early 2002.

"I'm here to get a feel for the context in which they're operating, how it's changed over the summer since I was here last," he said after he stepped out of a Canadian Hercules transport plane into the Afghan sun.

Since his last visit earlier this year, Canadian troops have taken part in the ground offensive known as Operation Medusa, a massive military operation to root out the Taliban in two districts west of Kandahar. Taliban militants have continued their suicide attacks.

"We believe that we're having the success that we would expect at this point in time. Did we see a resurgent Taliban this spring that has slowed some of the development? Particularly in the south, yes," he said.

But Hillier said efforts are underway, despite the Taliban resistance,to create an environment in southern Afghanistan where the country can rebuild.

"Now, there is a major effort going forward to get that reconstruction accelerated again."

Hillier said he thinks Canada's soldiers are performing extremely well under tough conditions and he believesCanadians back home support their efforts.

But it will not be easy for Canadians to assess military victories in Afghanistan, he said,because it is not a traditional military fight.

Hillier said he plans during his visit to find outif there is anything that the soldiers need while he is there. About 120 additional troops and a squad of battle tanks are on the way to bolster the mission.