By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 27, 2007 – Great Britain will deploy an additional 1,400 troops to Afghanistan this summer, British Secretary of State for Defense Desmond Browne told the country's Parliament yesterday. Most of the troops will be based in Helmand province, bringing Britain's force in Afghanistan to about 7,700, he said.
Browne said the additional troops are needed to continue progress already made, and he expressed disappointment that other NATO countries haven't stepped forward to provide sufficient forces, particularly in light of an anticipated Taliban offensive this spring.
"I have lobbied our partners consistently for more help in those regions, and I will continue to do so," he said. "But it is increasingly clear that at present, when it comes to the most demanding tasks in the more challenging parts of Afghanistan, only we and a small number of key allies are prepared to set forward. That is why we have decided to commit additional forces to Afghanistan.
"It is undoubtedly correct to say that if we were able to do more as an alliance, especially in the south and east of Afghanistan, we would have more effect," he said.
The defense secretary outlined British efforts in Afghanistan, including a U.K.-led provincial reconstruction team in Helmand that is implementing projects "aimed at improving the lines of ordinary Afghans."
These include digging wells, distributing food, providing a generator to a hospital in Lashkar Gah, repairing schools, building classrooms and a midwifery hospital, reinforcing river banks and flood defenses, and refurbishing tractor plows to encourage legitimate agriculture.
"There is no question but that the reconstruction work, when completed, will make a significant and life-changing difference to more than 1.8 million people in Helmand province and throughout the south of Afghanistan," he said. "The reason for that is that the development will not only generate electricity for people and communities who have never had it before, but add substantially to the agriculture potential of the Helmand River Valley by doubling the area that can be tilled."
Browne's announcement regarding Afghanistan comes less than a week after British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that 1,600 British troops will withdraw from Iraq in the coming months.
Blair said British forces will begin leaving Iraq, particularly Basra, where Iraqi security forces have taken primary responsibility for operations. He emphasized that the United Kingdom's combat capability in Iraq won't be diminished and that the remaining British forces will focus on training Iraqi forces and securing the Iranian border and supply routes.
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