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UK army opposes Afghan troop plan

December 17, 2001

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LONDON, Dec 16: Military chiefs are opposing Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plans to send thousands of peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan because they fear it may leave British forces overstretched, the Sunday Times reported.

Senior officers have warned Blair may have to withdraw troops from troublespots such as Macedonia and Sierra Leone if he goes ahead with plans to provide the bulk of a 6,000-strong international force in Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

Blair has said Britain is prepared in principle to lead a UN-approved multinational force.

Chiefs of staff have put forward an alternative proposal under which only 1,000 British troops would go to Afghanistan, but with Britain providing the force’s command structure, the Sunday Times said.

Under that scheme the biggest contingent of infantry would be French, the newspaper added.

It quoted an unnamed source saying that many of the men who could be sent in had not received proper training because of Britain’s heavy military commitments.

“I don’t doubt that his (Blair’s) intentions are honourable, but it smacks of glory-hunting,” the source said.

An official announcement on the planned UN-mandated force for Afghanistan will probably be made in London early this week, a spokesman for the British ministry of defence said Saturday.

British general: A British military team, led by the major general tipped to command the multinational security force in Afghanistan, was in Kabul to try to arrange for an early deployment.

Maj-Gen John McColl, who flew in late on Saturday with a dozen British military members, was to meet senior Afghan figures, possibly including new interim leader Hamid Karzai and defence minister General Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

“He is meeting some of the key figures. He’s here to talk about the modus operandi of the force,” British embassy spokesman Paul Sykes said.—AFP