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Britain to Send Afghan Peacekeepers Force - 2001-12-17

Britain said it could contribute up to 1,500 troops to lead an international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Tony Blair briefed parliament on the plans.

Prime Minister Blair said final plans are not complete, but Britain is prepared to spearhead international peacekeeping in Afghanistan. "Britain is willing in principle to lead such a force. It is likely to comprise troops from various countries, European and others. The British contingent is likely to be up to 1,000 to 1,500, though I stress that this is not yet decided," he said.

The leader of the opposition in parliament, Iain Duncan Smith of the Conservative Party, said he has "deep misgivings" about the British deployment. He said he particularly fears defeated Taleban fighters could target British peacekeepers in retaliation.

Mr. Blair said British troops would have logistic and air support of the United States, and the rules of engagement for their defense are still to be worked out.

"The reason why we have been looking at undertaking this mission is at the direct request, not just of the United Nations, but of the United States also. And of course it is true that we have to make sure that they go under proper conditions. That is precisely what we are doing now," he said.

Mr. Blair said lead elements of the force could arrive in Kabul by Friday, and the deployment could last several months.