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British Government Defends its Strategy and Support in Afghanistan 


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has defended his war policy in Afghanistan, saying winning is crucial to keeping Britain and the world safe.

Speaking in the House of Commons Monday, Mr. Brown said that "if were are to defeat this vicious insurgency then we must persist with our operations in Afghanistan."

Also, for the first time since eight British soldiers died in Afghanistan last week, Britain's Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth addressed parliament as he tried to rebut claims British forces are under-equipped for the tough mission they are engaged in. The British government has had to restate to the British public why its forces are in Afghanistan in the first place.

As British deaths in Afghanistan have edged past the number killed in Iraq, Gordon Brown's approach to Afghanistan is being attacked on two fronts.

With the British soldier death rate escalating in Helmand province, the public is losing faith in the government and its justification for being in Afghanistan 7.5 years after first being deployed.

And for those who still back the Afghan operation, many say Brown's government has not given the troops all the resources required to fight a determined insurgency.

Among the most vocal of critics in this camp, opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron.

"People will say, especially today and rightly, that our urgent priority is to get the right equipment to our forces on the front line," Cameron said. "They are right. Of course we must do that. It is a scandal in particular that they still lack enough helicopters to move around in southern Afghanistan. The government must deal with that issue as a matter of extreme emergency."

British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth said in the House of Commons that government is doing all it can to adequately protect troops in Afghanistan and he promised more assets would be moved into the theater of operation, but he underlined the mission will remain dangerous.

"It is our duty to supply the kit and equipment that is needed in order to keep people as safe as we can, but we cannot remove risk from this kind of operation," he said.

Three of the eight soldiers who died most recently were just 18 years old. It is that young age that is resonating with an uneasy British public.

The prime minister maintains that winning in Afghanistan is crucial to keeping the streets of Britain safe.

"If we are to defeat this vicious insurgency and by doing so make Britain and the world a safer place, then we must persist with our operations in Afghanistan. I am confident that we are right to be in Afghanistan, that we have the strongest possible plan and we have the resources needed to do the job" the prime minister said.

But only about half the British public agrees with that argument. An ICM survey in Britain's Guardian newspaper shows 46 percent backing British involvement in Afghanistan while 47 oppose it.

A majority would like to see all British forces withdrawn by the end of the year while 42 percent favor an immediate pull-out.

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