Gates announces Afghanistan troop increase only months before drawdown
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan to protect gains as fighting increases with the spring snow melt.
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In a related announcement, UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox said in Kabul yesterday that anticipated withdrawals among British troops would depend on ground conditions. Britons had been hopeful for a troop reduction when Prime Minister David Cameron announced after a a December visit to Afghanistan that bringing troops home in 2011 was “possible,” a second Journal report notes.Skip to next paragraph
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“Conditions have improved but we will want to ensure that that progress has been maintained and we will want to make sure that the training mission for Afghanistan is fully up to speed,” Defense Secretary Fox said Wednesday in Kabul.
The US has nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan now, and the UK has the second-largest contingent – about 10,000.
Fox added, however, that the role for British troops may change this year to focus on training Afghan security. Afghan forces are slated to take over responsibility from foreign troops in 2014, according to the first Journal report.
But the Taliban are arguably their strongest since US-led forces first took over the country, Reuters reports, with civilian casualties at record highs and more than 700 foreign troops killed last year. The Monitor reported this may be part of the reason Afghanistan is looking to Pakistan for help with the Taliban.
The US and its NATO allies are spending record amounts on equipping Afghan forces. As the Washington Post reports, they plan to spend $11.6 billion on Afghan forces this year, bringing the total to nearly $20 billion for 2010 and 2011 – as high as all seven previous years combined.
IN PICTURES: On base in Kandahar