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UK: 500 more troops heading to Afghanistan

world Updated: Dec 01, 2009 01:39 IST

AP
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Five hundred extra UK troops are heading to Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed Monday ahead of a video conference with President Barack Obama on the subject.

Brown told lawmakers the reinforcements will be deployed in early December to southern Afghanistan's Helmand province. Including special forces and supporting troops, he said Britain's total military force in Afghanistan will amount to more than 10,000 troops.

The British troops will be "playing their full role taking the fight directly to the Taliban," Brown said. "I want the whole country to pay tribute to their work."

Britain had said the increase was dependent on Afghan President Hamid Karzai promising action to tackle corruption, and on other allies offering more troops.

Brown claims that NATO nations _ not including the United States _ are prepared to offer about 5,000 more troops for Afghanistan. So far, Slovakia has offered 250 extra soldiers, Georgia has pledged between 700 and 1,000 soldiers, and South Korea has said it would send "several hundred" to protect its reconstruction teams. There are currently about 71,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. NATO and other allies collectively have an additional 36,000 troops in the country.

The British leader will have a video conference call with Obama on Monday evening. Obama is making an major speech Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he is expected to announce a substantial increase in the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

At a weekend summit of Commonwealth nations, Brown urged Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan to do more to tackle al-Qaida fighters in its tribal areas. Brown, who will meet Pakistani Prime Minister Raza Gilani on Thursday, also called on Islamabad to step up efforts to capture Osama bin Laden.

Karzai will meet foreign ministers from NATO and other officials at a London conference Jan. 28 to discuss future strategy for Afghanistan, Brown's spokesman said.