Following the withdrawal of British forces in Iraq, the UK government has announced that it will increase its presence in Afghanistan. At the same time the Australian Department of Defence has also committed to enhancing its presence in the country.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has confirmed that the number of British troops in Afghanistan will be raised to 9,000 for the duration of the Afghan elections this summer.

The Australian Defence force will increase its military and civilian commitment to Afghanistan with emphasis on strengthening the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

These additional force elements will increase Australia’s troop contribution to Afghanistan to approximately 1,550 Australian Defence Force personnel.

Following the elections in 2010, the number of British personnel in Afghanistan will be reduced, back to the current level of 8,300.

Brown said that providing extra security during the Afghan elections was the priority.

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“We shall also enhance our capability to counter improvised explosive devices and reinforce our reconnaissance capabilities,” he said.

“We shall also increase the number of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles and deploy Sea King air surveillance and control helicopters and the new airborne stand-off radar.”

Two additional infantry companies will also be deployed, which collectively will increase capacity to provide extra security during the elections. The extra forces include specialist capabilities such as counter-improvised explosive device forces and engineers, medical personnel and advanced reconnaissance assets such as the airborne stand-off radar.

The enhanced commitment from the Australian Defence Department will see an increase in operational capability and logistics support to the mentoring and reconstruction task force as well as a short term commitment to assist with security during the upcoming Afghanistan elections.

The increased contribution will be made up of: two additional operational mentor and liaison teams of 100 personnel; 70 additional personnel for the mentoring and reconstruction task force; 70 extra HQ embedded staff; an enhanced engineering element of 40 personnel; and an election support force of 120 personnel, and an additional 50 personnel consisting of logistics and transport specialists, including one additional C-130 aircraft and support crew will also be sent.

By Daniel Garrun.