The Taliban will never again rule Afghanistan, but its influence threatens to become entrenched in the country's south, British Defence Secretary Des Browne said today.
Speaking during his recent visit, Mr Browne said he shared Australia's frustrations that some Nato countries were not carrying their share of the military burden in Afghanistan's troubled south.
"I do not fear a Taliban takeover of all of Afghanistan, but I do fear the Talibanisation of the south," Mr Browne said of the hardline Islamic movement.
Speaking at Canberra's National Press Club, Mr Browne warned of the international consequences of Afghanistan - the world's largest producer of opium poppies - degenerating into a "narco-state" and destabilising neighbouring US-ally Pakistan.
He said Nato was on track to deliver a strong democracy in Afghanistan however through institution-building and security efforts.
After visiting British troops in Iraq last week, Mr Browne, who is visiting Australia for talks with defence chiefs, said he sensed Iraqis were gaining control over their own security.
"If this substantial improvement that we have seen over the last couple of months is maintained, then we are not just at the end of the beginning, but perhaps at the beginning of the end as far as support of the Iraqi military is concerned," he said.
"We're a long way away from that as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Afghanistan is a challenge to the international community for a generation."