Accessibility links

Breaking News

U.K. To Spend More To Protect Troops In Afghanistan

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is facing an uphill battle to win an election due by June.
LONDON (Reuters) -- Britain will spend an extra 160 million pounds ($260 million) to counter the makeshift Taliban bombs that have killed some 80 of the 100 British soldiers lost in Afghanistan this year, the prime minister has said.

Gordon Brown warned the fighting against Afghan insurgents would continue to be hard, but said 36 countries had now offered to send extra manpower.

"The Taliban are a determined adversary; they will not give up easily. I am under no illusions that there will be hard fighting ahead," Brown told parliament.

Brown, facing an uphill battle to win an election due by next June, has been accused of failing to give British soldiers enough protection from the bombs.

"If we can continue to defuse and dismantle and therefore disable these IEDs [improvised explosive devices] then we can reduce the rate of casualties that we have suffered over the last year," he said.

"Eighty percent of casualties throughout Afghanistan and among British forces are due to IEDs and therefore it is absolutely essential we take all measures I announced today."

Britain and its NATO allies are locked in a stalemate with Taliban insurgents, largely unable to stem the tide of roadside and suicide bombs that undermines the sense of security among Afghans and saps Western public support for the war.

Some 150 million pounds of the money will pay for measures including new facilities for training in Britain on countering IEDs and a new analysis centre to interpret data from British surveillance and intelligence activities in Afghanistan.

The money will be funded over the next three years through a reprioritization of the defense budget, an official said earlier.

A further 10 million pounds from a separate Treasury reserve budget will buy 400 handheld explosive detectors, coming on top of 100 Dragon Runner bomb defusing robots already ordered for 12 million pounds.

A detailed statement on defense equipment priorities is due on December 15 when cuts in defence spending are expected to be announced as the government tries to rein in a ballooning public deficit.


Britain recently announced it was sending an additional 500 troops to Afghanistan, taking its total deployment to 10,000 including special forces. It has the second largest contingent after the United States.

Brown and Afghan President Hamid Karzai met at an Afghan air base on December 13, aiming to fix a relationship that has grown bitter as the Afghan war grows deadlier and more unpopular.

Brown will host an international conference on Afghanistan on January 28 to which Karzai will be invited. Brown said today that the conference, attended by 68 international delegations, would reinforce efforts to train and develop Afghan security forces.

Under pressure from his Western backers, Karzai has promised to get tough on the widespread official corruption that weakens support for his government and the foreign troop presence.

"When President Karzai comes to London we will expect that he will be able to show progress in the anticorruption laws that he is proposing," Brown said.

"I can assure you that President Karzai is determined to come to London with a plan to deal with some of the problems that have been intractable over many years in Afghanistan."