British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed Nov. 30 that an additional 500 U.K. personnel will be sent to Afghanistan, and said that another eight coalition nations – besides the U.K. and the U.S. – are willing to provide further military support for the operation.
Brown said the latest increase takes London's contribution to more than 10,000 personnel, if the U.K.'s Special Forces are included. The ministry has previously said that the additional troops would raise the number of British forces deployed to 9,500, though it now appears this figure did not include the Special Forces.
The additional British forces will be deployed to Helmand in southern Afghanistan in December. Brown declined to identify which partner nations had already indicated they would be willing to provide more personnel.
U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil a revised Afghanistan strategy during a speech Dec. 1, including a substantial increase in U.S. forces.
Brown, with United Nations Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon, announced Nov. 28 that the U.K. is to host a conference on Afghanistan at the end of January 2010. Brown said: "The conference will cover both our military and our political strategies, but concentrate on the political strategy for Afghanistan.
"We will need further troop and training commitments from partners. I expect to see 5,000 further troops committed by other nations, and the London conference will be also an opportunity for some to make new commitments," he added.
The British and U.S. governments face growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan, and the emphasis on 'Afghanization' – in which the Afghan military and security forces increasingly take over from the International Stabilization and Assistance Force – is an effort to address such concerns, and to provide an exit strategy.
"I hope we will see this process of Afghanization happening in a way that people can feel more secure, that side by side with the British troops, the Afghans are taking responsibility for themselves," said Brown, "so we can look forward to a time in the future, for which there is no timetable at the moment, when Afghan forces can take responsibility in new areas and British forces are able to come home."
One of the criteria Brown had set to provide additional British troops was that all members of the U.K. deployed force would be "fully equipped for the operations they are asked to undertake."
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