During a visit to Kabul on Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the UK is resolute to help Afghanistan fight extremism. Brown met with British troops in the southern Hemland province.
Britain is "utterly resolute" in supporting Afghanistan as it fights a Taliban-led insurgency and pursues democracy, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said during a lightning visit to Kabul on Thursday.
Brown flew into the Afghan capital from southern Helmand province where he met British troops at a sprawling base of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is helping Afghanistan fight off the extremists.
His trip followed that on Wednesday of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who came to Kabul after 10 French soldiers were killed Monday in the deadliest battle for international forces here since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban.
Even though countries with troops in Afghanistan had suffered losses in recent weeks, "we are utterly resolute in our determination to support this new democracy of Afghanistan," Brown said.
"We will not relax from our efforts to support reconstruction of Afghanistan because we understand that, with Afghanistan the frontline against the Taliban, what happens in Afghanistan affects the rest of the world," he said.
Brown pledged more support for Afghanistan, especially in the training and mentoring of the army and police forces and development of the civil service.
Britain would also provide 120 million dollars towards a development fund that would include paying teachers' salaries and 17 million dollars for a radio station in Helmand, he announced.
Britain has 8,500 troops in ISAF, according to the alliance force, most of them in Helmand -- a hotspot for Taliban violence and Afghanistan's premium producer of illegal opium that supplies most of the heroin in Europe.
The soldiers have been under pressure in the province, with calls for more troops and resources in a fight that has steadily intensified in the seven years since the Taliban were toppled in a US-led invasion.
Recent weeks have seen a spike in violence, including the attack on the French soldiers and one on a base that left nine US soldiers dead and 15 wounded in mid-July.
Brown said however that troops and commanders he had spoken to believed they had made "substantial progress" in Helmand.
"While it is true that there is a summer offensive by the Taliban, it is also true that the tactics the Taliban had to adopt are more of a guerrilla nature than they are a head-on confrontation with our forces, and we have been successful in winning back territory," he said.
Brown said he and Karzai -- who described the prime minister as having a "kind heart" for Afghanistan -- also discussed allegations that attackers were arriving in Afghanistan from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.
"I accept that Pakistan and the problems of terrorism there -- that's something that's got to be raised with the Pakistan government," he said.
Addressing about 300 soldiers during a 90-minute stopover in Camp Bastion in Helmand, he praised the "courage, professionalism and dedication" of the British forces in Afghanistan.
"You make our country proud every day of the week and every week of the year. You are truly heroes of our country," he said.
"You know that you are on the frontline of the fight against the Taliban and you know that... what you are doing here prevents terrorism coming to the streets of Britain," Brown said.
A total of 116 British troops have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.
Brown later flew out of Kabul en route to China for the Olympics closing ceremony in Beijing.
Date created : 2008-08-21