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Britain to Send More Troops to Afghanistan

The British prime minister says he plans to send an extra 500 troops to Afghanistan, if NATO coalition partners follow suit and the Afghan government speeds up training its own forces.

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown began his regular question time in the House of Commons as he has always done, reading out the names of British soldiers recently killed in Afghanistan.

Because it was his first appearance after the summer recess, the list was long: 37 names. Despite Britain's growing losses in Afghanistan, Mr. Brown is sending 500 more troops, on the condition that other NATO coalition countries show the same commitment, the Afghan government promises to continue to expand its army, and British soldiers are properly equipped.

"I have agreed in principle to a new British force level of 9,500, which will be put into effect once these conditions are met," he said.

Britain is the second-biggest force in Afghanistan, behind the United States. Its involvement has been deeply debated in Britain. Nick Clegg of the minority opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, said in Parliament debate the forces deserve gratitude and clarity.

"We also owe it to every single one of them to ask the difficult questions about what we are doing in Afghanistan. Are we doing the right things to succeed as I strongly believe we must?" He asked.

The prime minister responded by saying Afghanistan is vital to his country's security.

"We are there to protect the streets of Britain, we are there because al-Qaida poses a threat to us as well as it does to other countries and we are there because if al-Qaida took control again or had an influence in Afghanistan, under a Taliban government, then the people of this government would not be safe," said Brown.

Mr. Brown said attacking al-Qaida had to go hand-in-hand with a strategy of building capacity so that Afghanistan can take care of itself.

"We will now move further and faster to implement our strategy, one that starts with training mentoring and partnering the Afghan army and police. And the more that the Afghans can take responsibility for security, the less our coalition forces will be needed in the longer term, and the sooner our troops will come home," he said.

The British prime minister acknowledged Afghanistan's first elections in August were deeply flawed. He said he and U.S. President Barack Obama agree that whatever new government emerges will have to make a new contract with the international community and its neighbors to build its army, take tough action on corruption, create a more inclusive political process, reach out to moderate elements of the insurgency and stronger control of local affairs.