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Brown confirms Afghanistan troop surge

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 30 November 2009

On the eve of Barack Obama's announcement of major US Afghan reinforcements, Gordon Brown pledges 500 more UK soldiers to Afghanistan.

British soldier, Afghanistan (Reuters)

Today’s announcement brings the total number of British troops in Afghanistan to just over 10,000, including special forces.

The prime minister said all the conditions had been met to commit the extra troops before Christmas.

But less than an hour after his announcement came a harsh reminder of the risks the troops will face, with news of the death of another British soldier.

The soldier from the First Battalion, the Coldstream Guards, died after an explosion in the Babaji area of Helmand. His family have been informed.

Speaking to MPs in the Commons, Gordon Brown also called on Pakistan to step up efforts to track down members of al-Qaida, including Osama Bin Laden, who are believed to be hiding on the Afghan/Pakistan border region.

Brown pledged last month to boost the British deployment to 9,500 as long as three conditions were met.

They were a commitment by the Afghan government to provide sufficient home-grown troops for training, assurances that the British forces could be adequately equipped and that would be part of a coalition-wide deployment with each ally bearing its "fair share".

An international conference is to be held on 28 January to secure agreements from Afghan President Hamid Karzai of 50,000 trainee soldiers, an increased local police force and plans to tackle corruption.

Professor Michael Clarke from the Royal United Services Institute spoke to Channel 4 News about the troop surge.

"You and I talk about numbers because it's an easy way of understanding it but what military planners are talking about is units, how many units are going," he said.

"What General McChrystal asked for was five more brigades - five more brigades that he can use in Kandahar, in Helmand, a couple in the north east and a training brigade. So if he gets those five brigades then he's got backing for his plan whatever the final number turns out to be.

"Nato, I have to say, has be giving contradictory messages because some of the allies in Nato are talking about when, "we're going to leave" and "we will be pulling out next year" or whenever it might be.

"The French have said no more troops whatsoever. Germany is quietly talking about reinforcement.the Italians have talked about several hundred troops and we're making a commitment of 500.

"So if you put all those together my guess is, and it is a guess at the moment, is that Nato will be coming up with perhaps 3,000/3,500 troops.

"I think they'll put in enough to make it look as if they are contributing to the Obama plan."

Alex Thomson spoke to defence secretary Bob Ainsworth and asked him to name the other eight Nato countries who had also agreed to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

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