More Than 20,000 Troops For Helmand Province

A section of the march in London on October 24 against the war on Afghanistan demanding troops out
A section of the march in London on October 24 against the war on Afghanistan demanding troops out

Prime Minister Brown yesterday announced the UK is sending 500 extra troops to Afghanistan early this month.

He revealed that, along with special forces operating in the country, the UK contingent will rise from 9,000 to over 10,000.

In a statement to the MPs in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon, Brown repeated his mantra that the security threat to the UK emanated ‘from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area’.

Brown said that he had been urging Pakistan to step up its efforts against the Taleban and Al Qaeda.

He added that the war needed ‘a new approach’, claiming: ‘It was our country that was the first to suggest that Afghanistan takes control of its own security.’

He said that at a London conference on January 28 ‘other countries will wish to make announcements about troops and force generation’ and it will ‘raise the issue of constitutional reform’ in Afghanistan.

He said that ‘the military strategy is to create space for the political strategy to work’.

Brown said that ‘America will make an announcement tomorrow’ and that excluding the US and Britain, ‘the numbers of international coalition troops will have risen from in January 2007, 16,000 troops to around 30,000 soon’.

He said that now international forces in Helmand ‘will be above 20,000, three times what they were’.

He said that president Karzai had pledged that ‘5,000 members of the new Afghan Army Corps will be deployed to Helmand’ and others will be trained up ‘in the next few weeks’.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Robert Ainsworth announced that there is enough equipment in Afghanistan to support the deployment of an additional 500 British troops.

Speaking to the media at STANTA, the training village in Norfolk, Ainsworth said: ‘The ratios of equipment that people need to the levels of troops that we have in Afghanistan have improved over the last few months, and they have improved quite considerably, both in terms of helicopters and protective vehicles as well.’

Ainsworth said there is now enough kit for 500 extra troops and for those already deployed to Afghanistan.

He added: ‘We’ve done a lot of work on burden-sharing; there are contributions from many nations that will be verifiable.

‘And, of course, the Prime Minister has been talking, and we all have, to the Afghan authorities about what we require from them, because there’s no good just uplifting our own people in Helmand if we haven’t got Afghans to train, to partner with and to bring on.’

l Tony Blair has denied reports that his top legal adviser, then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, was gagged after writing that a war to change the Iraqi regime would be illegal, six days after a cabinet meeting in July 2002.

Asked if a report in the Mail on Sunday claiming that Goldsmith was ‘bullied’ into keeping quiet was accurate, Blair told CNN: ‘No, it’s not.’

The newspaper report accused Blair of then deliberately keeping him out of cabinet meetings and of bullying him into backing down.

Asked if that was an accurate picture, Blair told CNN: ‘No, it’s not’.

He added: ‘But I think the best thing with this inquiry is actually to let us all give our evidence to the inquiry.’