British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Afghanistan's government on Friday to take action against corruption, saying he would not risk more British lives there unless it reforms. His warning comes after the deaths of seven British soldiers this past week, including five who were allegedly shot by an Afghan police officer they were training.
The bells of the church in the British town of Wootton Basset toll for another fallen soldier. Seven British servicemen have died in Afghanistan in as many days.
Speaking at the Royal College of Defense Studies here in London the British prime minister reaffirmed his nation's commitment to Afghanistan.
"Our mission must not fail. It is not easy. The choices are not simple. There is no strategy that is without danger and risk. But that is the responsibility of leadership, of government and of our armed forces, to do what is necessary however difficult to keep the British people safe. We cannot, must not and will not walk away," he said.
Mr. Brown says having British troops in Afghanistan is vital to security at home.
"The biggest domestic threat continues to come from the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan. So it is right that our first line of defense is there," he said.
Britain and the rest of the world are waiting to see whether U.S. President Barack Obama will send more troops to Afghanistan. His top commander in Afghanistan is reported to have requested an additional 40,000 forces. The British prime minister says the conflict is a proving ground for all 43 nations involved.
"It's not just the U.S. that is being tested in Afghanistan, nor is it just Britain, it is the whole international community. We entered together. We must persist together in our different ways. We must all contribute and we will succeed or fail together. And, we will succeed," said Brown.
He had critical words for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Sadly the government of Afghanistan had become a byword for corruption and I'm not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm's way for a government that does not stand up against corruption," he added.
The British prime minister said his Afghan counterpart has promised to make fighting corruption his first priority.
As Mr. Brown criticized the Afghan government, he was facing criticism at home. Lord Charles Guthrie the former head of the armed forces said the government should be doing more for the military.
"There are several things the government could do now which would greatly assist those in the front line, and who find the government's commitment to their needs, less than it should be," said Guthrie.
Mr. Brown said his government is doing all it can to ensure British troops in Afghanistan have the best equipment and all the support they need. Despite the assurances, Ninety three British servicemen have died this year in Afghanistan. That makes 2009 the British military's deadliest year since the Falklands War in 1982.