|As Defence Secretary Des Browne prepares to send more British soldier to Afghanistan, Shadow Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox accuses France and Germany of not pulling their weight......
February 01, 2007
800 more UK troops heading for Afghanistan
The Sherwood Foresters are to go to Iraq
British Defence Secretary Des Browne is sending the Sherwood Foresters to Afghanistan. This will mean Britain will have 6300 troops in Afghanistan, compared with Germany's 3000 and Frsnce's 1000.
A further 800 British troops will be sent to fight the Taleban in southern Afghanistan in the coming months, the Secretary of Defence announced today.
In a written statement to MPs, Des Browne said that an extra battalion of soldiers would be sent to reinforce the British deployment in Helmand province, where 5,000 members of the British armed forces are currently serving.
Command of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) is scheduled to pass from the UK to the US this weekend, meaning that 500 British personnel will pull out of Kabul.
Overall, Mr Browne said, the adjustments will leave Britain with 6,300 soldiers in Afghanistan by the end of the summer, a total approaching the 7,200-strong UK force in Iraq.
The decision comes in the latter stages of preparations to replace the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade who have been on duty in Helmand since September.
They are handing authority over the region, one of the most volatile and Taleban-strewn in Afghanistan, to 12 Mechanised Brigade, which will now consist of three infantry regiments rather than two.
The 1st Battalion, The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, will now join the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards and the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, which are expected to arrive in Afghanistan in March.
They will be assisted by units of the Royal Artillery, and signal, logistics and medical regiments, said Mr Browne in his statement. Harrier GR7 and GR9 jets, Apache attack helicopters, Viking all-terrain vehicles and Royal Engineer personnel will also remain in the province until April 2009.
The new force will be under the command of Brigadier John Lorimer, who has already been on a reconnaissance mission to Helmand, and will be expected to contend with the start of the summer fighting season in Afghanistan.
Not that combat has diminished much over the winter, due to the aggressive tactics maintained by the Royal Marines on their arrival in Helmand last year. Mr Browne said today that heavy fighting in recent months had "released the Taleban stranglehold" in many parts of the province.
Dr Liam Fox, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said the Conservatives supported the sending of extra soldiers but questioned why other Nato members were not committing more troops to the mission.
"There have to be serious questions raised about why the British Army are shouldering yet more of the burden down in the south of Afghanistan. It cannot be acceptable that British taxpayers are funding a greater proportion of the cost and the British military are shouldering a greater part of the burden in the most dangerous part of the country," he said.
"Where are our Nato allies?"
Mr Browne said that he would raise the question at a meeting of Nato states in Seville next week.
Lord Carrington, a former Nato Secretary-General, also joined the criticism, accusing France and Germany of "not pulling their weight" in Afghanistan. France has 1,000 troops in the country, mainly based in Kabul. Germany has 3,000, mainly in the north.