British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today praised the work of UK troops in Afghanistan, promising more help for them to overcome the threat of roadside bombs planted by the Taliban.
On a visit to the war-torn country, Mr Brown announced new kit and personnel to deal with the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have killed and wounded so many British soldiers.
He visited troops at Camp Bastion in Helmand province and thanked them for their efforts in fighting the insurgents ahead of the recent presidential elections.
Mr Brown travelled with Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, and had talks with senior commanders including US commander General Stanley McChrystal.
He said: “Let me pay tribute to the courage, bravery, professionalism and patriotism of our forces.
“This has been a most difficult summer in Afghanistan, because the Taliban have tried to prevent elections taking place.
“I think our forces have shown extraordinary courage during this period.
“They know the reason why we are here and that is our security at home depends on a stable Afghanistan – no return of the Taliban, and no role for al Qaida in the running of Afghanistan.”
Mr Brown unveiled new measures to deal with the threats facing British soldiers on the ground.
This autumn, 200 specialist counter IED troops will be deployed to join 200 that were sent there earlier in the year.
They have already been making headway arresting bombers and their suppliers.
There will also be an increase in flights by unmanned surveillance aircraft that provide intelligence to track and target bomb makers.
The British government said it recognised the need for more protective vehicles for road moves and to have more helicopters in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
The extra equipment will be funded from government reserves over and above the defence budget.
More than 200 British troops have died in Afghanistan since British operations began there in 2001.
Mr Brown said he wants the Afghan army to be trained more quickly so the Afghan people can take on a bigger role in running their own affairs.
While in the country, the Prime Minister spoke on the phone with President Hamid Karzai and his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.
He discussed with them both his proposals for more Afghan troops and police to bring security.
Mr Karzai widened his lead in the presidential race today as new voting results were released, inching closer to the 50% threshold of votes he needs to avoid a run-off.
Latest results show Mr Karzai with 46.2% of the votes already counted, against Mr Abdullah’s 31.4%.
The results are based on 35% of the country’s polling stations, meaning they could still change dramatically.
Results will not be finalised until late September after various allegations of fraud have been investigated.
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