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US, UK training Tongan Troops for Afghanistan

Several dozen soldiers from the South Pacific nation of Tonga are training with British and U.S. troops to take up support roles in Afghanistan, officials say.

The 55 Tongans are among soldiers from 50 nations that make the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes reported Wednesday.

They are training at RAF Honington, a British base northeast of London, to provide security at Camp Bastion, a British base in Helmand province.

American forces from RAF Mildenhall are also contributing the training, showing the Tongans how to use a night-vision monocle and an aiming scope and how to work with military dogs.

It's at least the third deployment for the Tongan troops, and the contingent commander, Cmdr. John Ulakai, said the training has helped his soldiers become more familiar with equipment used in Afghanistan.

"It's good to see what the Americans used, because we never know what kind we're going to have when we arrive there," Ulakai said.

One piece of equipment the Tongans are training on is the .50-caliber machine gun. While Tongan defense forces have the weapons in their arsenal, Ulakai said the impoverished nation of 100,000 "can't afford to fire just one bullet."

In eight week of training with the British military,they will be instructed in such matters as infantry skills and combat first aid.

Ulakai said his troops might deploy in May.

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Afghanistan