Browne defends Afghanistan role

British troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001
Defence secretary Des Browne has defended Britain's continued presence in Afghanistan despite a rising death toll among troops.
Seventy soldiers have died there since operations began in 2001.

But Mr Browne said it was essential that troops remained to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a training ground for terrorists.

"I never ever underestimated the degree of difficulty that we face here - but we are making progress," he said.

The latest death occurred on Saturday when a soldier from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment died after he was injured in an attack on his patrol base north-east of Sangin in Helmand province.

His next of kin have been informed.

Mr Browne expressed his condolences to the family of the dead soldier, and his five comrades who were injured in the attack, as well as the family of Private Tony Rawson who died on Friday in Helmand.

There are about 7,700 British troops in Afghanistan, training Afghan security forces, helping with reconstruction, and provide security.

In Helmand, the emphasis is also on counter-narcotics, as the province is the largest single source of opium in Afghanistan.

Mr Browne, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said: "What we have to do is that very difficult balancing act of making progress militarily, which we can do.

"The British can over face the Taleban in any circumstances, we can over match them rather, we can face them down and we can drive them out of communities.

"The challenge is then to be able to build those communities, local government, their links to the provincial government and to the central government in such a way that that is sustained."

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