Britain will send 140 more troops to Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday, as the remains of eight soldiers killed in recent fighting with Taliban forces were flown back to England.
The additional soldiers will be transferred from a British base in Cyprus to join more than 9,000 British troops already fighting in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
With other European nations unwilling to send more troops - and Afghan forces not ready to take up overall security - Britain’s support has been crucial to the international coalition battling Taliban insurgents seeking to regain power.
The death of 15 British soldiers this month, however, has sparked debate about the purpose and progress of the faraway war. The overall British toll of 184 from Afghanistan now surpasses the number of British troops killed in Iraq.
The bodies of eight soldiers, killed over a 24-hour period last week, were being flown today to the Royal Air Force’s Lyneham base in western England.
Thousands of mourners were expected to watch as the flag-draped coffins are taken in hearses through the nearby town of Wootton Basset on their way to an Oxfordshire hospital for inquests.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted on Monday that the British troops were well-equipped.
His Cabinet was being briefed today on the Afghan campaign, and lawmakers planned to discuss the issue on Wednesday during a special House of Commons session.