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Report: British to boost troops in Afghanistan

The Associated Press

Sunday, August 24, 2008

LONDON: Britain will send an additional 4,500 troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, a newspaper reported Sunday. The British military dismissed the report as speculation.

The News of The World cited an unidentified military source as saying those troops would be sent to Afghanistan once soldiers began returning from Iraq — where a major reduction of Britain's presence has been promised for early 2009.

Britain's Ministry of Defense refused to comment on the veracity of the report. "We are not willing to engage in speculation about any future announcements regarding troop numbers and deployments," it said in a statement.

Afghanistan is experiencing a surge in violence, and Western leaders are weighing whether to ratchet up their presence to help contain it.

In April, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he would boost his country's contingent in the country by 700 troops. However, France's role in the country has been called into question after an ambush there killed 10 French soldiers — the deadliest attack on allied forces in Afghanistan in more than three years. This year is already likely to be the deadliest for international troops since the 2001 invasion.

Last month, British Defense minister Des Browne told a Washington, D.C., audience that while he believed Iraq was headed in the right direction, it would be a longer haul to achieve success in Afghanistan. In June, Browne announced a boost of 230 troops in the British contingent in Afghanistan to a total of more than 8,000.

The Ministry of Defense says 116 of its personnel have died while serving in Afghanistan since 2001, most of them in fighting with the resurgent Taliban.

There are about 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the highest since the war began. Earlier this month, the Pentagon ordered about 175 extra troops to the country, part of an effort to reinforce its fighting force by sending some smaller, specialized units there.






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