The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has announced today that the number of British troops in Afghanistan will increase to 9,000 for the duration of the Afghan elections this summer.
Following the elections, the number of British personnel in Afghanistan will reduce, in 2010, to an enduring presence of 8,300, the number that is currently in the country.
The extra force levels will be met by an extension of the deployment from August to November 2009 of those elements of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers already temporarily committed to Afghanistan.
Two additional infantry companies will also be deployed, which collectively will increase capacity to provide extra security during the elections. The extra force level package includes specialist capabilities too, ranging from counter-improvised explosive device forces and engineers, to medical personnel and advanced reconnaissance assets such as the Airborne Stand-Off Radar.
A small number of volunteer and regular members of the Reserve Forces will deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours.
The Headquarters of 6 (UK) Division will also be deployed to command the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command (South) from November 2009 to November 2010. Merlin support helicopters from 78 Squadron RAF are also being prepared for service in Afghanistan. On current plans, they will be available to deploy by late 2009.
Mr Brown said today:
“These units will provide important additional capabilities for UK forces in Afghanistan. The reinforcement of two infantry companies will enable us to provide extra security during the Afghan elections.
“We shall also enhance our capability to counter improvised explosive devices [IEDs]. These devices are a major threat to our troops, those of our Allies and to the ordinary Afghan people. We are deploying personnel with a range of skills to detect, dispose and exploit IEDs and to prevent them being laid.
“Other personnel will improve our ability to defend our bases while we shall also reinforce our already significant reconnaissance capabilities.
“We shall increase the number of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. We shall also deploy Sea King Air Surveillance and Control helicopters and the new Airborne Stand-Off Radar. These complementary systems use radar to track movements on the ground. They can help our forces to detect, follow and intercept Insurgents before they can lay IEDs.”