LONDON, Sept 19 (KUNA) -- Britain's Defence Secretary Des Browne insisted Friday that the position on UK troop levels in Afghanistan was "very clear" following claims they could be increased next year.
He had "no plans" to announce extra British troops for the country and he denied that military commanders had asked him for more.
Browne was speaking following a report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper today suggesting an extra brigade of 4,000 troops could reinforce the UK's current force of around 8,000 soldiers in Helmand province.
Browne, who is hosting a meeting of NATO defence ministers in London, told BBC domestic radio, "As far as our own contribution is concerned, I think I have made our commitment in terms of troop levels very clear.
"I last told Parliament on June 16 that we would carefully increase the number of troops by a few hundred to about 8,000 over the period from October, going forward.
"I have no plans to announce, or I am not planning, I have not been asked by military commanders for additional troops. But (US Defence Secretary) Bob Gates and I are both agreed that we do need to see greater commitment from across NATO." Planning is under way to reduce the UK's 4,000-strong force in Iraq and it is thought these troops could be transferred, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The US Defence Secretary told the paper, "My understanding is that the UK may increase the size of its force there (Afghanistan)." Asked to clarify what the size of the reinforcements might be, Gates, who was due to meet Browne for lunch, said, "Maybe I will find out today." The US has around 30,000 troops in Afghanistan but General David McKiernan, the US commander in the country, has asked the Pentagon for three more American brigades in addition to the extra one already announced by US President George W. Bush which is due to be deployed in January.
This would increase the number of US troops to nearly 44,000. (end) he.ema KUNA 191142 Sep 08NNNN