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Brown refused extra Afghan troops

07 October, 2009

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LONDON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown refused to send extra troops to Afghanistan against the advice of military commanders, whom he failed to support adequately, the former head of the Army said on Tuesday.

General Sir Richard Dannatt told the Sun newspaper he had been disappointed with the backing he had received from ministers which had left commanders trying to do their job “with at least part of one arm tied behind one’s back”.

“The military advice has been for an uplift since the beginning of 2009,” Dannatt told the paper, saying top brass had asked for an extra 2,000 soldiers at the start of the year.

“If the military says we need more troops and we can supply them, then frankly they should take that advice and deploy up to the level we recommend.”

Brown has always denied that he rejected the recommendation for an extra 2,000 troops.

“Any suggestion that the prime minister has been unwilling to deploy more troops or provide the necessary resources is simply wrong,” Brown’s spokesman told reporters.

The government agreed earlier this year to send 700 more soldiers to help boost security during the Afghan presidential election, meaning Britain now has about 9,000 troops in the country, mostly in the southern province of Helmand which is the focus of fighting with Taliban insurgents.

“I’ve been disappointed with the support we’ve had in recent years,” Dannatt said. “One’s had to take the government at times screaming and kicking to agree to some of the things we felt passionately about.”

The top commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal has warned the mission will likely fail without a change in strategy and up to 40,000 more troops.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in comments to be broadcast on Tuesday that he blamed the Taliban’s revival on past failures by the United States and its allies to deploy enough troops to the country. Brown is now considering whether Britain will send additional forces.

“We have long said that we would review troop numbers after the Afghan election, in light of military advice, the situation on the ground, and the outcome of international discussions on the McChrystal review,” a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

He said any decision would be based on the feasibility of sending the necessary equipment, the “right strategy” and a new Afghan government ready to take on corruption.


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