Britain to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan

20:48, October 14, 2009      

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is scheduled to announce Wednesday that he has agreed in principle to send 500 more troops to Afghanistan, to increase the country's military presence there to a total of 9,650.

The additional troops will be sent to the central Afghan province of Helmand.

Brown's spokesman, Simon Lewis, said Tuesday that any decision on troop numbers would be announced to the House of Commons, which would resume Wednesday after its summer recess.

News of the troop increase comes after a new poll released by The Times revealed that 36 percent of the respondents want British troops to pull out of Afghanistan, up from 29 percent as polled in mid-September.

Pollster Populus interviewed 1,509 adults between Oct. 9 and Oct. 11. The margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

The growing unease has been driven by women, with four out of 10 wanting Britain out of Afghanistan, up from three out of 10 last month.

Brown called for reassurance from defense chiefs that the extra troops would have the right equipment to take with them and urged NATO partners to also increase their commitments.

So far, 221 British military personnel have died in Afghanistan since the war there began in late 2001.

Nine British soldiers died in Afghanistan in the month up to the poll, increasing the death toll to 55 in the past four months.

The prime minister was scheduled to read out the names of the 37 soldiers killed in Afghanistan during the three months of the parliamentary summer break.

Former army chief General Richard Danndatt, who recently retired, accused Brown of turning down the military's request for committing an extra 2,000 troops in Afghanistan.

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