UK beefs up Afghan force but Russia smells defeat on Twitter

Britain beefs up Afghan force but Russia smells defeat

18 October 2009 - Issue : 856

US Marines raising a US flag and their MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) flag at sunrise, Sept. 30, 2001 in a desert camp known as Camp Rhino after landing in the first official “Boots on the Ground” after the War on Terrorism began following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001.

US President Obama and his national security team are reviewing their war strategy as the Taliban is becoming more deadly in their attacks against US and NATO forces .

As the United States and NATO have urged European countries to take a bigger role in the war in Afghanistan, Britain has agreed to send 500 more troops to that battle-weary country, taking overall deployment to 9,500 military personnel, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. But that came as Russia’s envoy to NATO said the alliance would lose. Brown told parliament that the additional deployment to Helmand province would only go ahead if “certain conditions” were met. These included a commitment from the Afghan government to provide more of its own troops for training and an increase in troop numbers by fellow-NATO governments, Brown said. He said the increase to which he had agreed in principle should be seen as “part of a coalition-wide deployment with each ally bearing its fair share.”Britain expected to announce more troops for Afghanistan

The increase comes after extensive consultations over strategy between Britain and the US. It coincided with a new opinion poll showing that more than a third of British voters would like forces to be withdrawn from Afgh­anistan. According to the Populus poll, published in the Times newspaper, 36 percent of Britons want troops to come home from Afghanistan, compared with 29 percent in a similar survey conducted earlier in September. The additional combat troops will be deployed in southern Helmand province, where so far 221 British soldiers have died.

But NATO is facing defeat in Afghanistan, and Russia and the states of Central Asia must be ready to pick up the pieces, Russia’s ambassador to the alliance said. Discussions at a conference in Paris on the future of Afghanistan run by the East-West Institute think tank “have only further enhanced the impression of NATO’s looming capitulation in Afghanistan,” Dmitry Rogozin wrote in a Twitter feed from the meeting. “Russia and its Central Asian partners should be ready for such a dramatic scenario,” Rogozin wrote.

NATO currently has some 67,700 troops in Afghanistan operating under United Nations mandate in a bid to stabilize the country. Russia supports the mission by allowing some NATO supplies to pass through its territory and cooperates with NATO on fighting the Afghan drug trade. However, it has so far ruled out any military participation in the country.

NATO leaders insist that the alliance will stay in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to teach the country’s government and army how to run their own country. But the mission is locked in a bitter battle with Taliban-linked militants. Public support in NATO countries is waning, and doubts are growing over the democratic credentials of the Kabul government, given reports of mass vote-rigging in elections in August. Rogozin, formerly the head of the nationalist Motherland party in Russia, was appointed ambassador to NATO in January 2008.

He quickly made a name for himself as an outspoken critic of some of the alliance’s policies, particularly its desire to bring former- Soviet states such as Georgia and Ukraine into the fold. NATO should only accept Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili if it were prepared to also accept Hitler and Saddam Hussein, Rogozin said at the height of Russia’s war in Georgia in August 2008. He accused NATO of “preferring not to notice” a report commissioned by the European Union which said that both Georgia and Russia broke international law in their war. “For me, this is yet another evidence that Russia was right and NATO was wrong,” he wrote on the website Twitter. The ambassador joined the Twitter community in a response to the fact that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen already tweets. “I’ve recently discovered the new NATO SecGen’s notes on Twitter. I’ve decided not to be left behind in anything,” Rogozin wrote in his first Twitter post.

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