New US troops to play important role in Afghanistan: Miliband

February 19th, 2009 - 7:26 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Feb 19 (DPA) British Foreign Minister David Miliband welcomed Wednesday an announcement by the US government that it will send thousands of extra troops to Afghanistan, saying they would play an important role in defeating the Taliban-led insurgency.
Miliband, who arrived on a two-day trip to Afghanistan Tuesday, however, said that his country had no plan to send extra British soldiers to the war-wracked country. There are currently about 8,000 British troops in the country.

“We represent about 12 percent of the troops in Afghanistan at the moment,” Miliband told reporters in Kabul while standing beside his Afghan counterpart, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, in a joint press conference.

“We have had no request to increase our number of troops,” he said.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama said that the war in Afghanistan was still “winnable” and announced that his country would send 17,000 additional US soldiers to Afghanistan this year to contain the insurgency, which is on the rise seven years after the ouster of the ultra-Islamic Taliban regime.

With the new deployment, the US military will have more than 50,000 soldiers in the country, while more than 30,000 troops have been deployed to Afghanistan from 40 other nations to provide security and help the development of the country under the banner of NATO.

“I think there is a universal recognition that these extra American troops can play and will play an important and positive role when they are aligned and allied with a strategy for economic development and for political development,” the British foreign minister said.

Britain has more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, with more than half of them stationed in the southern province of Helmand, where the Taliban are the most active.

Spanta praised the role of UK forces in Afghanistan and said, “Britain is the second largest country in terms of its military presence and the second largest country in terms of economic aid.”

On Tuesday Miliband, on his fourth trip of the country since taking office some 18 months ago, traveled to southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where he met with British soldiers and other NATO troops.

Miliband went to the eastern province of Kunar Wednesday, and met with Afghan and Pakistani troops, who are fighting the Taliban militants along the shared and porous border.

He was expected to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai later Wednesday.

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