The International Monetary Fund has approved a 2.6-billion-dollar loan for Sri Lanka to support its economic reform programme in the aftermath of its 37-year civil war against the defeated Tamil Tigers.
AFP - Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday called US President Barack Obama for talks on Afghanistan as Britain announced it would send in reinforcements after a recent spike in troop deaths.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it was deploying 125 more troops in Afghanistan on Monday following a surge in deaths this month that has seen the overall toll overtake that suffered during the war in Iraq.
Meanwhile Brown and Obama held telephone talks on the situation in Afghanistan and stressed the importance of "better military and civilian burden-sharing with NATO allies," a Downing Street spokesman said.
Brown has been forced to defend Britain's strategy in Afghanistan following the spike in troops deaths, in a row that has piled the pressure on a government already struggling with the recession and an expenses scandal.
Debate in Britain has focused on whether the troops have enough helicopters available. Several of those killed recently lost their lives due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on the ground.
The MoD stressed the new deployment would "ensure specialist skills, notably counter-IED operations, are not lost to commanders."
Britain has around 9,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, largely battling Taliban insurgents in the troubled southern Helmand Province.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "I have always said that I will listen to the view of commanders on the ground in Afghanistan -- they are the people best placed to know the resources needed for that operation.
"They have told me that, after the sad and tragic casualty rate that we have suffered in recent weeks, reinforcements are necessary to ensure we can maintain our operational tempo and consolidate the real progress we have made.
"These additional troops will ensure we have sufficient troop levels and, crucially, the right specialist skills in theatre.
"Many of our brave young men have died fighting to protect our national interest in Afghanistan and I will not allow their sacrifices to have been in vain."
The personnel will comprise of a company from 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, specialist counter-IED personnel, and members of 19th Regiment Royal Artillery.
A total of 188 British troops have died since operations against the Taliban extremists began in October 2001. Of these, at least 156 were killed as a result of hostile action. Nineteen have died this month alone.
Over the past month, British troops have been involved in Operation Panther's Claw, a major assault against the Taliban in Helmand.
A Downing Street spokesman said Brown and Obama spoke late Friday and agreed that the mission in Afghanistan was "critical" to national security both there and at home.
"Both leaders paid tribute to the sacrifices made by NATO troops: despite the tragic human cost, military operations in Helmand were making progress, and were helping to provide much needed security for the Afghan elections," he said.
"Going forward, there needed to be a continued balance between security, governance and economic development as part of a comprehensive approach, with increased training of Afghan security forces.
"The prime minister and president also discussed the importance of working to make the forthcoming elections as credible and inclusive as possible.
"They agreed on the importance of better military and civilian burden sharing with NATO allies."
Date created : 2009-07-25