From the Sunday Times. A brigade for Afghanistan? What price deployment gaps now? Britain to send 5,000 more troops to Kabul Adam Nathan, Defence Correspondent THE British Army is to deploy up to 5,000 extra troops to Afghanistan to defeat a rising Taliban insurgency and to hunt for Al-Qaeda terrorists and their leader, Osama Bin Laden. There are now only a few hundred British troops in the country, but the Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans for the new deployments to take place over the next 18 months. The Afghan plan, directed by General Sir Michael Jackson, head of the army, and approved by Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, anticipates a withdrawal of many of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq. However, military sources say they will be able to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan even if they are forced to retain a significant force in Iraq, although such overstretch could make it a shorter-term operation. Commanders in Afghanistan have been requesting reinforcements to preserve stability in the country. It has seen a surge in violence over the past few months by militiamen loyal to the fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was overthrown in 2001. Last week Britain made its first deployment of military aircraft to Afghanistan when six Harrier GR7 jets and 315 staff were sent to a base at Kandahar. The planes will help the security effort for next months first presidential elections since the fall of the Taliban. A senior army source said: The big plan over the next 18 months is to ramp up our efforts in Afghanistan and draw down our forces in Iraq. Troop numbers in Afghanistan will start to increase early next year, when hundreds of soldiers from the third battalion the Parachute regiment arrive in Kabul. The main body of British troops to follow will come from a new shock infantry unit called 19 Light Brigade, to be based at Catterick in North Yorkshire. We need to take Afghanistan to the next strategic stage by expanding out of Kabul and bringing security to more of the country, said a senior army source. Peacekeepers from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) are currently restricted to Kabul and nine provinces in northern Afghanistan. Army planners want British troops to venture into the violent no-go areas in the south and east of the country, where Taliban militia chiefs and local warlords have been trying to reassert control. Both Hamed Karzai, the interim president, and one of his deputies have come close to being killed in recent weeks. Powerful regional warlords continue to thwart Karzais attempts to impose central rule. Western leaders are worried that, if the country slides out of control, Al-Qaeda may be able to re-establish training camps there. Separate from Isaf, an 18,000-strong American-led force, which also includes British troops, is continuing to hunt Al-Qaeda fighters and Bin Laden along the mountainous border with Pakistan. Several American soldiers have been killed recently in a series of rebel attacks. British troops, including the SAS, will continue to help with the hunt for Bin Laden. The new force will be overseen by the headquarters of Natos Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, commanded by Major General David Richards. Most of the headquarters 2,000 staff will be British. British forces played an important peacekeeping role in Afghanistan immediately after the fall of the Taliban. In May 2002 a 1,000-strong British force led by Royal Marines swept into the Afghan mountains to hunt down regrouping Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. The marines were criticised for their lack of success, but the British are generally regarded as the most professional and effective peacekeepers by other international forces in Afghanistan. The exact formation of 19 Light Brigade has yet to be worked out but it will almost certainly include the Queens Royal Lancers who, as part of the overhaul announced by Hoon earlier this summer, are to be re-roled from a heavy armoured regiment into a lighter mechanised unit. Senior defence sources say the Black Watch regiment is now highly unlikely to be abolished. Attention has instead shifted to the Royal Scots, the oldest infantry regiment. Either two or three English single battalion regiments are also expected to be axed. These are likely to include the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment and one regiment from either Yorkshire or Lancashire.