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Britain to Send More Troops to Afghanistan


Britain has announced it will send nearly 900 more troops to troubled southern Afghanistan, following a month that has seen six British soldiers killed in clashes with Taleban fighters.

The government says the additional troops will increase the British force in southern Afghanistan to about 4,500 soldiers to confront a growing Taleban threat.

Britain is spearheading a NATO mission in Helmand province, a region on the border with Pakistan, known for its opium poppy production and lawlessness.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is denying media reports that the level of resistance by fighters of the former Taleban regime has taken the British military by surprise.

"If we stay the course there, and do what we need to do to support the Afghans in their democracy, then that prevents Afghanistan slipping back into the past, which led to the terrible events of September the 11th, 2001," said Mr. Blair. "So, it's a very, very clear mission, and it has always been a mission that was going to be difficult."

The former assistant chief of Britain's defense staff, Timothy Garden, says the war in Iraq has taken attention away from the instability in Afghanistan. Garden is currently a defense spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrat party.

"We've got a real problem with Afghanistan, which is why it had to be attacked in 2001. We've got to stabilize it. We promised we would. We've been a bit slow in doing it, because we got distracted by going off to Iraq," noted Garden.

British officials announced the original Helmand deployment last year, saying it would focus on redevelopment and not combat operations. However, the current defense secretary, Des Browne, says the arrival of British troops in large numbers last month appears to have energized the Taleban.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn says the establishment of security in the region is paramount before critical development projects can begin.

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