More British troops for Afghanistan

It's not much, but it's something.

The British will up their combat presence in Afghanistan by 25%, sending 2,000 additional troops to the battle zone:

Downing Street is involved in discussions about a surge. An increase of about 2,000 would take Britain’s troop strength to 10,000. Any decision would require Cabinet approval.

President Obama will announce today an extra 17,000 US troops and a big rise in civilian officials as part of his new strategy in Afghanistan. He will also announce a plan to double the size of the Afghan National Army, with US units training more recruits, and increased aid to fight militants in neighbouring Pakistan.

American and British efforts to persuade other Nato countries to contribute have so far drawn a blank. John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, said yesterday that Europe must play a bigger role and that it was also in Britain’s interests “to do more”. Ministers and defence chiefs are ready for Mr Obama to make a formal request for more British troops, possibly before Nato’s 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg next week. They are also prepared to make an announcement before such a request arrives.

General Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, said that there were no plans to send the whole brigade of about 4,000 troops, which would take the British presence to more than 12,000. He indicated that the increase, subject to political approval, could take the total to “somewhere in between” that figure and the present troop strength of 8,300. Defence sources said that a rise of 1,700 to 2,000 troops was viewed as “the uppermost ceiling”.

The British are the only NATO company that is increasing their combat forces following a call from the United States for more NATO troops.

Italy and Poland will send small increases but apparently only in response to the presidential election in Afghanistan.

The extra British contingent is part of a 4,000 man brigade that was training for Iraq but will now deploy to Afghanistan. Gordon Brown announced previously that 4,000 troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by July 31 but the idea of a "man for man" replacement to Afghanistan was rejected. Only the 2,000 will be sent instead.