Britain Will Send More Troops to Afghanistan, Prime Minister Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 16, 2008 The United Kingdom will increase the number of troops it contributes to the coalition effort in Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced today.
Brown made the announcement during a joint news conference with President Bush in London. The two leaders also discussed a range of issues, including Iraq and Iran.
“We have resolved, first of all, as we did some years ago, that it is in the British national interest to confront the Taliban in Afghanistan or Afghanistan would come to us,” Brown said. “And so today, Britain will announce additional troops for Afghanistan, bringing our numbers in Afghanistan to the highest level.”
The United Kingdom currently has 8,530 servicemembers in Afghanistan.
Bush thanked Brown for the decision. “You've been strong on Afghanistan and Iraq, and I appreciate it,” Bush told Brown during the news conference. “But more importantly, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq appreciate it.”
Brown noted the sacrifices of five British paratroopers recently killed in action. He thanked the British troops -- and those of 42 other nations -- for their courage and professionalism.
“Eighteen months ago, the Taliban boasted that they and their paid foreign fighters would drive our forces out of southern Helmand,” he said, referring to the southern Afghanistan province where British troops lead the coalition effort. “Now most agree that security is on the way to being transformed.”
In answer to a question about Pakistan, Bush said the same strategy applied in Afghanistan should apply in Pakistan, and that the two countries need to communicate better and cooperate more. “Our strategy is to deny safe haven to extremists who would do harm to innocent people,” Bush said. “That's the strategy of Afghanistan; it needs to be the strategy of Pakistan.”
Bush said he thinks it would be a good idea to hold a tribal meeting of leaders on both sides of the border. He also called on intelligence services to share information, and for Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO to reinvigorate the Tripartite Commission -- meetings at the senior military level on cross-border activities.
Discussion on Iraq centered on the strategy in the south. Brown said he will follow no artificial timetable for withdrawing troops. Britain, with more than 4,000 servicemembers in Iraq, “will continue to do the job,” he said.
“Our policy is showing success as we continue the task we have set ourselves: strong and well-trained Iraqi forces capable of securing the peace, firm commitments to new local government elections soon, and speeding up the social and economic development of Iraq so that people have a stake in the future,” Brown said.
Iran also was a matter of discussion, and Brown outlined an offer to Iran to stop processing nuclear fuel. “We put our enhanced offer on the table, including political and economic partnership, and help with nuclear technology for civilian use,” he said. “We await the Iranian response, and we'll do everything possible to maintain the dialogue.
“But we are also clear that if Iran continues to ignore united resolutions, to ignore our offers of partnership, we have no choice but to intensify sanctions,” he continued. “And so today, Britain will urge Europe, and Europe will agree to take further sanctions against Iran.”
Bush said the free world has a right to be concerned about Iranian intentions and is obligated to work together to prevent Iran from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon.
“Now is the time to work together to get it done, and I appreciate your statement,” Bush said to Brown. “Hopefully, the Iranian leadership will take a different position than the one they've taken in the past, which is basically, ‘Who cares what the free world says? … We'll go our own way.’”
Bush repeated his frequent assertion that he has no quarrel with the Iranian people. “We want the Iranian people to thrive,” he said. “It's in our interests that there be a hopeful society. It's their government who has denied them their rightful place in the world.”