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Britain Deploys Marines for Possible Ground Action in Afghanistan - 2001-10-26

Britain is deploying 200 marine commandos for possible ground action against terrorist and military targets in Afghanistan.

The British minister of state for the armed forces, Adam Ingram, announced the troop deployment in parliament Friday.

He said 200 marines will be stationed aboard the assault ship, HMS Fearless, and they will be ready for ground action in Afghanistan. Mr. Ingram said another 400 marine commandos will be on high alert in Britain to join the operation if needed.

Britain is also sending the aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, which will be re-equipped to handle helicopters. Several other British warships and planes also will join the campaign.

Mr. Ingram said the British deployment expands the flexibility and scope of future operations against terrorist and military targets in Afghanistan. "This powerful force will total some 4,200 personnel in the theater," he said. "It represents a major enhancement of the coalition's capabilities." Mr. Ingram stressed that military operations in Afghanistan will continue and develop over time, and that Britain is the fight for the long haul.

Military experts say the British marines are especially well-prepared for operations in Afghanistan. Their training emphasizes fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions, which they might encounter during the coming Afghan winter.

Britain has been supporting the U.S.-led military strikes in Afghanistan since action began on October 7. Britain has provided air, naval, and logistic assistance, and British submarines have twice fired cruise missiles at targets inside Afghanistan.