Asia Crisis

No big rise in UK troops in Afghanistan expected

British soldiers from the Coldstream Guards patrol in Central Helmand province November 16, 2007. REUTERS/Steve Lewis

MANAMA (Reuters) - Britain is not planning a substantial increase in troop levels in Afghanistan, its armed forces minister said on Sunday.

“I don’t accept that the situation is deteriorating in Afghanistan at all ... We have increased our troop levels in Afghanistan already, we’re not planning a huge increase or anything like that,” Bob Ainsworth told Reuters.

In the past two years, Afghanistan has witnessed the worst insurgent violence since a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban rule in 2001.

NATO has a little over 40,000 troops operating in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The United States and Britain are the largest contributors, with 15,000 and 7,700 soldiers respectively.

The killing of a British soldier on Saturday brought to 86 the number of British personnel killed in Afghanistan since October 2001.

Ainsworth called for more Afghan input into stabilising the country and more efforts to improve governance.

“The military on their own can hold the ground and provide some level of security but there has to be an Afghan face to the development...We can’t just leave it to the military,” he said.

Britain’s commitment to Afghanistan would continue for some time, he said.

Editing by Robert Woodward