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PM pledges to double Afghan troops' allowance

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 11 June 2010

Amid fears that the Taliban had targeted his helicopter in Afghanistan, Alex Thomson tells Channel 4 News that the prime minister today promised to double troops' daily allowance.

David Cameron visits British solders in Afghanistan (Getty)

On his first visit to Afghanistan since taking office a month ago David Cameron paid tribute to British soldiers, telling them they were doing "great work" that would never be forgotten. 

Addressing troops in the midst of a sandstorm, the prime minister pledged his support for the British Armed Forces and promised to rewrite the "military covenant" setting out the country's obligations to its fighting men and women.

Cheers met the announcement that operational allowances for soldiers overseas will be doubled and backdated to 6 May, the date of the general election. The doubling of the operational allowance will take it from £14.51 a day to £29.02 - at a cost of £58m.
'National security'
Speaking at the main British base at Camp Bastion in Helmand province Cameron said he wanted the British public to "revere and support" the military.

"I want to put you front and centre of national life again," he said. "I want you to help me create a new atmosphere in our country, an atmosphere where we back and revere and support our military.

More from Channel 4 News on Afghanistan
- Cameron in Afghanistan: this year is 'vital'
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"What you are doing here will never be forgotten, it is great and important work, you are incredibly brave and professional in what you do."

The prime minister said that he was determined to give the forces a clear sense of mission about why they were in Afghanistan.

"I can sum up this mission in two words - national security, our national security back in the UK. We don't have some dreamy ideas about what this mission is about, it is about that pure and simple."

And he promised that once they had trained up the Afghan forces to a position where they were able to take responsibility for their own security, they would be able to leave with "heads held high".

"This is not a war of choice, it is a war of necessity. This is not a war of occupation, it is a war of obligation," he said.

Cameron told troops that British forces were in Afghanistan because that was where al-Qaida had launched the 11 Sept attacks from adding that soldiers would come home when the Afghan forces were ready to take over.

Capello sends support to the 'real heroes'
Prime Minister David Cameron read a message of support to soldiers from England football coach Fabio Capello - who Cameron described was "the most important person in England".

Mr Cameron read out a message of support from the man he described as "the most important person in England" - national football coach Fabio Capello, describing them as the "real heroes".

The message reads: "While the players receive incredible support from the country as we are about to kick off in the World Cup, it is important you know how much all your efforts mean to all the players and staff with the England team.

"Your brave service to your country means so much to the players and we will all have complete respect for the incredible sacrifices that you and your families have made.

"While we will be doing all we can to achieve success in South Africa for the whole country, we want you know that we believe that you are the real heroes."

Visit diverted after Taliban fears
The prime minister spent the night in Helmand following talks with the President Hamid Karzai in Kabul yesterday where he spoke of the "vital" year of the Afghan mission.

His visit to Helmand, where more than 5,000 British servicemen and women are based, came a day after he was forced to abandon a visit to a frontline base amid fears that the Taliban was trying to bring down his helicopter.

Cameron had been due to fly in to the patrol base at Shahzad, Helmand, but the RAF Chinook helicopter carrying the prime minister and his entourage was diverted to the main operating base in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

He also visited a British-funded agriculture school near Lashkar Gah.

Soldier tributes
Relatives of a soldier killed while on foot patrol in Helmand Province on Wednesday today described how he had only ever wanted to be a soldier.

Private Jonathan Michael Monk, from the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment, was killed by an explosion in the Nahr-e Saraj district.

The 25-year-old's family said in a statement: "the Army was in his blood, it was all he'd ever wanted to do since he was five years old"

"He leaves an enormous void in all our lives. We will miss him so much, but we will always be so proud of his achievements and the dedicated way he served his country. He will always be our hero."

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