British Defense Secretary Des Browne said on Wednesday that Britain would send 16 Air Assault Brigades to replace 52 Infantry Brigades in Afghanistan in April this year.
It is said that it was the fist time that Britain would send so many elite parachutes on a joint combat mission since the second World War. And they will get extra armored vehicles and new Merlin helicopters.
The British decision came as the United States intensified pressure on other European allies to send more troops to Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now in London for meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Afghanistan, and other issues.
According to the statement by the Ministry of Defense, Britain would replace 16 Air Assault Brigades in October this year by three Commando Brigades, Royal Marines. And 16 Air Assault Brigades will provide the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan, the bulk of which represent direct replacements for previously announced deployments to Afghanistan.
Britain currently has over 6,000 soldiers based in Afghanistan, and will increase to around 7,700 over the course of the year. And there are about 87 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since November 2001.
British forces are deployed in Afghanistan in support of the UN authorized, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission and as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.