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Thousands more troops to Afghanistan

An extra 4,500 British troops are going to Afghanistan to crush the Taliban the News of the World can reveal.

They will be switched from duty in Iraq over the next two years and join 7,800 British soldiers already in the country.

Gordon Brown will now urge other nations to send more troops to combat a resurgent Taliban.

The PM will make a statement on the deployment to Parliament this autumn. Fleets of RAF helicopters—including Merlins and Chinooks—will also be urgently redeployed to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

The Taliban has already launched a new offensive and there are fears that terror groups will exploit the turmoil resulting from the resignation of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

More of our forces are also needed to train up the Afghan army and police force.

The army is 70,000-strong. But there are plans to build it up to 122,000. And commanders say Britain cannot think about pulling out before they are ready to take over. There are 6,500 British forces personnel in Iraq and they will be withdrawn over the next two years, with most then sent to help in Afghanistan.

A military commander in Afghanistan said: “The soldiers fighting the Taliban are the sharp point of a very long spear. At the moment everything is divided in two between Iraq and Afghanistan. When we can focus on Afghanistan we can slim things down and become a more effective fighting force.”

The planned troop surge is expected to coincide with an increase in the US force there.

But commanders say it will be another five years before Britain can start cutting numbers in the country. A senior military source said: “When we see people coming back from Iraq we will see more people going to Afghanistan. We are talking about another 4,500 men.

“We have the new Taliban offensive to deal with and the border with Pakistan is very porous. We need to get that nailed down. The public no longer understand why we are here. We are trying to make sure al-Qaeda don’t launch another attack on Britain. The 7/7 terrorists all had their roots here.”



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