Monday, December 14, 2009

Gordon Brown visits UK troops and Afghan leader

Gordon Brown has been visiting British troops in Afghanistan to show his support in the run-up to Christmas.

The prime minister inspected new equipment and held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar.

He said the next few months would be "critical" and urged the Afghan government to take a bigger role in confronting the Taliban.

Unusually, Mr Brown spent the night in the country, rather than flying in and out in one day.

He slept in "basic quarters" at the Kandahar air base, the headquarters of Nato troops in the south of the country.

There are currently about one or two attacks a week by Taliban in the Kandahar area.

The prime minister said: "I wanted to be here with the troops to thank them for what they are doing.

"I wanted to see what it was like working with them."

This year alone, 100 British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan.

In a joint press conference with Mr Karzai, the prime minister acknowledged that casualty numbers had been high and paid tribute to their "bravery, professionalism and dedication".

He said: "I feel for all of those families who have lost loved ones, particularly as we move towards Christmas.

"I know this has been a difficult year."

Mr Brown said he felt more confident about the conflict following decisions by the US and Britain to send in more troops.

He insisted Afghanistan's border regions were "the epicentre of global terrorism" and operations there were directly related to security on British streets.

Both leaders denied suggestions of a rift between them.

Click here for the full report on BBC online

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