Britain is to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan raising their total strength to 9,500 despite growing public anger over the country’s continued military involvement in a war that has already claimed more than 200 British casualties.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, defended the decision saying it was in Britain’s own national interest to secure peace in Afghanistan.
A “safer Afghanistan,” he told the Commons, meant a “safer Britain”.
“When the safety of our country is at stake, we cannot and we will not walk away,” he argued insisting that contrary to what the critics said, Britain had the “right strategy” and would “see it through”.
Reacting to criticism that British soldiers were not properly equipped resulting in avoidable casualties, Mr. Brown said he was “determined” to ensure that they were “properly resourced” and got all the support they deserved.
He pointed out that he had agreed to send more troops only in principle and their actual deployment would depend on whether they had the necessary equipment and training.
He also stressed that it was important for other NATO countries to step up to the plate and increase their troop levels in Afghanistan. Everyone must bear his “fair share” of the burden, he said.
The Opposition called for a “radical” change of strategy in Afghanistan with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg calling for more stress on political reconciliation.
After America, Britain has the largest military contingent in Afghanistan prompting criticism that other NATO partners are not doing their bit. The issue is likely to be discussed at an informal gathering of NATO defence ministers next week.