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Cameron in Afghanistan: Taliban child hanging 'crime against humanity'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 10 June 2010

Prime Minister David Cameron says this year is vital to the Afghan strategy as on his first visit to the country since taking office he describes reports that a seven-year-old boy has been hanged by the Taliban as a "crime against humanity".

David Cameron visits Afghanistan in first PM visit

In a joint press conference with the Afghan president in Kabul, Cameron said his "biggest duty" was to make sure British armed forces have the equipment and protection they need to do the job.

While dismissing that sending more troops to the country was not the agenda the prime minister announced that an extra £67m will be spent on countering the Taliban use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - a major threat facing British soldiers.

"I'm pleased to announce today that we will be spending an extra £67 million on countering the IED threat and actually doubling the number of British teams that are there to counter the threat from these explosive devices," Cameron told the press conference.

He added: "I've described this year - and the president, I know, agrees - in terms of the Nato mission in Afghanistan as the vital year.

"This is the year when we have to make progress - progress for the sake of the Afghan people, but progress also on behalf of people back at home who want this to work."

'Taliban hanging' condemned
Since assuming the premiership a month ago, Cameron has been determined to stress that the country - where 10,000 British troops are engaged in fighting the Taliban - is his number one foreign policy priority.

Cameron and Karzai both condemned reports of the execution of a young boy by Taliban fighters. According to reports a seven-year-old was hanged in a village for spying for foreign forces.

Karzai said his government was seeking to confirm the reports: "If it is true... I don't think there is a crime bigger than that that even the most inhuman forces on Earth can commit."

Cameron agreed saying if true it was an "absolutely horrific crime".

"I have a six-year-old daughter and the idea of someone believing that a six or seven-year-old can be spying and needs to be treated in that way is just without any justification," he said.

"As the president said, it is a crime against humanity and, if true, says more about the Taliban than any book or article or speech could ever say."

Yesterday four American soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in an operation to evacuate two British soldiers injured in Helmand province.

A British serviceman was killed in a separate bomb blast bringing the total UK soldiers killed in Afghanistan to 294.

At least 40 people were also killed, and 77 wounded, after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a wedding in the Kandahar area of Afghanistan.

As tributes were paid to the serviceman it was revealed that the US government warned Britain in 2006 that too few soldiers were being sent to fight the Helmand insurgency. In a visit to London four years ago senior US officials warned that a brigade of only 3,300 soldiers would not be sufficient to deal with the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, according to The Times newspaper.

The Taliban have regrouped since their US-led overthrow in 2001 and now engage a foreign force that is expected to grow to 150,000 in coming months as part of an offensive against insurgent strongholds in the south.

Cameron has already met Mr Karzai once, at his country residence, Chequers, as well as speaking to him by telephone.

Earlier this week, following talks with US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, Defence Secretary Liam Fox made clear that he had no plans to switch British forces from Helmand - where the bulk are deployed - to Kandahar where the Americans are preparing a major offensive.

President Barak Obama has given US commander General Stanley McChrystal until the end of the year to assess whether his troop "surge" is working and when they can start drawing down forces.

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