IN FOR THE LONG HAUL
11 Nov 09. Whilst not being drawn on the requirement for extra troops in Afghanistan, U.K. Defence Secretary John Hutton was clear that the U.K. was going to be in Afghanistan for the long haul and compared the current conflict to ‘the next Cold war’. In a detailed speech given to a large audience at the ISS, he laid out the reasons for the U.K. presence in Afghanistan.
However on 14 November 2008 the BBC reported that up to 2,000 extra British troops are likely to be sent to Afghanistan next year.
Ministers are considering sending reinforcements to Afghanistan to meet an expected request from Barack Obama, when he becomes US president next year.
In talks, Afghan leaders told Gordon Brown more troops were needed as it emerged two Royal Marines were killed on Tuesday in the south of the country.
The Ministry of Defence said it had not received a request for extra troops.
The last two days in Afghanistan have been marked by bloody fighting, and at least 21 military and civilian deaths. At Downing Street, during a visit to London, Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, told Gordon Brown all efforts were being made “to bring violence down” after the Afghan foreign minister urged Britain to send in more troops.
“The Afghan people are very grateful for what Britain has done in Afghanistan.” said Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai told BBC News: “British troops have been in the very difficult part of Afghanistan, in the most difficult part of the
country. They have suffered, they have sacrificed lives in Afghanistan.
“The Afghan people are very grateful for what Britain has done in Afghanistan.”
He added: “If we need more troops to add to security, to close the borders… [to] the entry of extremists and terrorists, the exit of narcotics, well, yes, bring more troops.”
But among Britons, there appears to be a public appetite to pull out.
A BBC-commissioned poll suggested nearly 70% favoured bringing the troops home.
However, the US President-elect Barack Obama has made it clear he is ready to commit at least two more American brigades, the equivalent of about 8,000 extra troops.
And it is expected he will ask Nato allies to strengthen their numbers too.
The UK already has 8,100 troops in Helmand province and British ministers have publicly argued any extras should come from elsewhere in Europe in order to share the burden more fairly. But the BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Robbins said that privately ministers and officials conceded the new president would still ask for a greater British fighting effort.
Military ‘needs breathing space’
He said they also made it clear that no government would want to say no to President Obama early in his term of office, particularly given his huge following.
Our correspondent said some British officials accepted it might be necessary to commit up to 2,000 more soldiers next year. But he said it could be made easier by the expected withdrawal from Iraq and the net effect could still be a reduction in force levels in the two countries combined.
The Ministry of Defence told the BBC: “We have not received a request for extra troops and the figure of 2,000 is not one we or Number 10 recognise.
John Hutton Speech
We give the full text of his speech below:
Two hours ago I stood along with millions of people across the country to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflicts from 1914 to the present day.
In 1918 the relief of Armistice Day must have been overwhelming to every man, woman and child who had lived through the horror of the First World War. The same, I know,