Gordon Brown plans troops surge in Afghanistan

Published on The Guardian, by Mark Townsend, Toby Helm, Peter Beaumont and Gaby Hinsliff, July 12, 2009.

Thousands more troops could be sent to Afghanistan within months under an emergency review of the UK mission being carried out by the Ministry of Defence.

The news of a possible troop surge comes after eight British soldiers were killed within 24 hours, leading to fresh calls from senior military and political figures for urgent reinforcements – and an end to Treasury constraints on spending on the Afghan war. Fifteen British soldiers have died during the first 11 days of July, with the total of 184 deaths surpassing the 179 killed in Iraq. Two of the soldiers who died on Thursday have been named as Daniel Hume, 22, from 4th Bn, The Rifles, and John Brackpool of the Prince of Wales’s Company, 1st Bn Welsh Guards, who would have celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday … 

…The apparent willingness to consider sending more troops will be seen as a sign of Brown’s determination to show real progress in Afghanistan before the general election. Obama is also known to have told commanders he wants demonstrable results within a year.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Tory foreign secretary, said Brown had no option but to order the MoD to loosen financial controls: “The needs of combat operations are always additional to normal MoD funding. We did not defeat Hitler by deciding what we could afford.”

Leftwing Labour MP Jon Cruddas today calls on ministers to scrap plans for the new multibillion-pound Trident missile system and to switch resources to “protect soldiers on the frontline”.

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said that patience with the Afghanistan mission was limited: “The public will understand us making sacrifices if there is a sense of progress, but if there is no sign of it soon they will become impatient.”

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: “The price of failure is too great to contemplate. But we must give our armed forces the equipment they need. The decision to cut the helicopter budget in 2004 was disastrous”. (full text).

Link: Brown’s secret plan to cut Afghanistan force by 1,500, on The Independent, by Brian Brady and Jonathan Owen, July 12, 2009.

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