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Britain Orders More Troops to Afghanistan


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced he will send additional troops to Afghanistan to boost force levels in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida supporters. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from London.

Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting U.S. President George Bush, Prime Minister Brown said more British troops would be deployed soon.

"Today Britain will announce additional troops for Afghanistan bringing our numbers in Afghanistan to the highest level," said the British leader.

Britain currently has around 7,800 troops in Afghanistan, operating in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar and in Kabul. British Defense Secretary Des Browne announced that an additional 230 troops would be deployed by the Spring of 2009, bringing the total British commitment to 8,030.

London and Washington have consistently stressed the need to confront extremists in both Afghanistan and Iraq or be faced with extremists taking the fight to Britain and the US.

Speaking in London, President Bush said military action in Iraq and Afghanistan is necessary.

"Absolutely, it is necessary, if you believe we are in an ideological war, the theaters of which right now, the most notable theaters are Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

NATO has some 53,000 troops in Afghanistan and the United States, with the largest contingent, has called for an increased commitment by other alliance members.

The increase in British troops comes amid heightened tension along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Last week a U.S. cross-border air strike killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops. U.S. officials said the strike had targeted insurgents; the Pakistanis called the attack "unprovoked and cowardly."

At a news conference in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued his own warning to militants and to the Pakistani government. He said his country is ready to seek out militant leaders wherever they are and warned that if Pakistani militants cross into his country, Afghanistan has the right to retaliate and destroy their hideouts across the border.

Speaking in London, President Bush said he understands President Karzai's concerns.

"It is in no one's interest that extremists have a safe haven from which to operate and obviously it is a testy situation there and if I am the president of a country and people are coming, allegedly coming from one country to another to kill innocent civilians on my side, I would be concerned about it," he said.

Mr. Bush called for calm and for more coordination and sharing of information among Pakistan, Afghanistan and coalition forces.

Responding to President Karzai's warning, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi described the Afghan leader's comments as "irresponsible" and "regrettable", saying Pakistan "shall defend its territorial sovereignty."


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