£8.3bn spent on Afghan war – 500 more troops to be sent

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Prime Minister Brown yesterday announced another 500 UK troops are being sent to Afghanistan.

In a statement to MPs in the House of Commons on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Brown revealed: ‘Since 2006-07 we have increased annual military spending on the Afghan operation – spending from the Treasury Reserve, in addition to the Defence budget – from £700 million to £1.5bn to £2.6bn to more than £3.5bn this year.’

He added: ‘I have agreed in principle a new force level subject to the following conditions.

‘First, that a new Afghan government demonstrates its commitment to bring forward the Afghan troops to be trained and to fight alongside our forces – and I talked yesterday to President Karzai and Dr Abdullah and received assurances that this will happen.

‘Second, that as before every soldier and unit deployed to Afghanistan is fully equipped for the operations they are asked to undertake.

‘Third, that our commitment is part of an agreed approach across the international coalition, with all countries bearing their fair share. . . .

‘I have agreed in principle to a new British force level of 9,500, which will be put into effect once these conditions are met.’

He said he had agreed with US President Obama ‘that when a new government is formed, the international community including Afghanistan’s neighbours must develop a contract with the new government including:

‘Commitment to growing the Afghan army; tough action on corruption; a more inclusive political process, including reaching out to reconcilable elements of the insurgency; and stronger Afghan control of local affairs.’

The Stop the War Coalition yesterday accused Brown of ‘having more blood on his hands’ for ‘sending 500 more to join the 9,000 already fighting a senseless and unwinnable war.’

It added: ‘Every reason given for Britain’s involvement in the occupation of a nation which is one of the most impoverished on earth, and which poses no threat whatever to this country, has been exposed as bogus.

‘Stop the War’s national demonstration on Saturday 24 October will give voice to the majority in Britain that opposes the war and wants all British troops withdrawn.’

l About 20 UK service personnel were on a US Chinook helicopter which was forced to make an emergency landing in south Afghanistan on Tuesday, it was revealed yesterday.

Four US air crew and about 30 Afghan personnel were also aboard.

NATO Isaf officials said enemy action has been ruled out as a cause, with the helicopter apparently suffering a mechanical fault.

The UK personnel were in the process of being evacuated and commanders on the ground were planning the recovery of the helicopter, said an ISAF spokesman.