British premier in Afghanistan on surprise visit

August 21st, 2008 - 4:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Kabul, Aug 21 (DPA) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived Thursday on a surprise visit to Afghanistan and was expected to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai.During his one-day visit, Brown visited British soldiers at a base in southern Helmand province where he told them they were in the “front line in the fight against the Taliban.”

Rejecting fears that the battle against the Al Qaeda-linked Taliban was losing ground, he said: “You know that by what you are doing here. You prevent terrorism coming to the streets of Britain.”

The premier also said Britain would do everything to protect its soldiers and paid tribute to Barry Dempsey, the latest British soldier to be killed in the conflict in Afghanistan. He died Monday.

In total, 116 British soldiers have died since the conflict began in 2001.

Brown was scheduled to hold a joint press conference with Karzai Thursday in Karzai’s fortified presidential palace in Kabul, Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said at a press conference.

Brown’s visit to the war-torn country came a day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy came to Kabul after an attack Tuesday on French soldiers killed 10 and wounded 21.

Britain is the second largest contributor of foreign troops to Afghanistan after the United States. It has around 8,000 soldiers working mostly under the NATO banner.

British forces are stationed mostly in volatile southern Helmand province, which is a hotbed for Taliban insurgency.

Brown is scheduled to depart Afghanistan for Beijing to attend the Olympics Games.

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