Friday, August 22, 2008

Many more Brits too for Afstan?

Further to this post on the US, the Brits are also looking at major reinforcements:
Troop numbers in Afghanistan must increase to contain the surge in violence, says the commander of British forces in Helmand.

In an interview with The Independent ahead of Gordon Brown's visit to the province yesterday, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said: "We are probably still on a growth trajectory before we get to the stage when the UK presence can begin to thin out." The commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade estimated it would be up to five years before Britain could consider dropping troop numbers.

Senior military officers are reported to have held preliminary talks on increasing British soldiers in Afghanistan from 8,000 to 12,000 – a dramatic difference from the 3,300 initially expected to hold the ground when the UK force took over Helmand in 2006. The boost in numbers ties in with suggestions that troop levels in Iraq be scaled back.

Senior Nato commanders are said to be "screaming out" for more boots on the ground in Afghanistan...

The Prime Minister, during a fleeting visit to Afghanistan en route to the Olympics in Beijing, met Brigadier Carleton-Smith and the governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal, before flying to Kabul to hold talks with President Hamid Karzai.

Mr Brown was not drawn on troop levels but likened the soldiers' courage and dedication to the Olympic medallists. "You make our country proud every day of the week and every week of the year," said the Prime Minister. "You are truly the heroes of our country."

At a joint news conference with Mr Karzai, Mr Brown insisted that coalition forces were gaining ground [?] despite a vicious summer offensive...

[Brigadier Carleton-Smith] said the key to British withdrawal from Helmand was a strong local army, police and government. In one year, the number of Afghan National Army forces in Helmand has increased from 2,500 to 4,300 and while Nato troops remain the leading force, they are increasingly working alongside local soldiers. The Afghan army has 70,000 troops with plans to build the force up to 122,000 – but it lacks armour, air power and medical support.

Brigadier Carleton-Smith concluded: "Armies have never controlled Afghanistan. There has always been a political settlement."
If things get rougher the answer ain't necessarily to scoot right fast.


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