Peter Hoskin

The politics of troop numbers

The politics of troop numbers
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So could more troops be sent to Afghanistan after all?  In his press conference yesterday, Brown referred to boosted troop numbers for the Afghan elections in August, but neglected to point out that's just a temporary increase.  But now an article in the Independent says that may actually become permanent, and that the government may be considering an even larger deployment:

"The Government is expected to announce reinforcements for British troops in Afghanistan within a month, in a victory for military commanders over politicians in Westminster.

Gordon Brown rejected a request from commanders this year for an extra 2,000 to 2,500 soldiers and sent a temporary force of 700 to provide security for the Afghan elections.

Officials said the resultant furore had prompted Downing Street to signal it would almost certainly accept a new proposal to increase numbers. The Armed Forces minister Bill Rammell indicated a decision may be "imminent" and a review would take place after the Afghan elections in less than a month. He said that troop numbers were "kept under review jointly by the service chiefs, ministers and the Prime Minister".

A reserve force of about 1,000 is believed to be on standby."

If so, it makes Labour's political instincts even more questionable.  Why did they go so far in the briefing war against Richard Dannatt if there was the possibility of them coming round, more or less, to his demands for extra troops?  And what of Brown's frequent refrain that the current "operation" in Afghanistan is sufficiently manned and equipped?  Extra troops for Afghanistan is the right military decision, but you suspect that the government have taken too many wrong steps over the past few weeks to turn it into a political success.