Brown to send 500 troops to Afghan

WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to send some 500 troops to Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported, in a boost to Washington's efforts to secure more commitments from European allies.

Brown, who is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday, will set a number of conditions to deploying the extra troops, the Journal said.

The conditions include "a North Atlantic Treaty Organization strategy for the training of Afghan civil and military personnel, proper equipment and a new Afghan government being in place" after August elections were marred by allegations of fraud, the US newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Amid spiraling violence and waning public support for the eight-year war, US President Barack Obama has struggled to persuade even Washington's closest allies to dispatch more troops to Afghanistan.

Britain has the second-largest NATO contingent in Afghanistan behind the United States and the additional forces would bring the British presence to around 9,500, the Journal said, the highest level since the US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001.

The planned British deployments come as Obama holds in-depth talks with his war council on Wednesday in the latest meeting focused on a grim assessment of the war by the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal.

Calls for British forces to pull out of Afghanistan have risen sharply as casualties mount, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

Tthe survey shows more than a third of voters believe all British forces should be withdrawn.

The figure has increased to 36 percent from 29 percent in mid-September, the Populus poll for The Times showed.

Women are driving the growing unease, with four out of 10 wanting the forces out, up from three out of 10 over the past month.

The survey also reveals opposition to the former head of the army, General Richard Dannatt, being appointed as an advisor to the Conservatives, who lead the Labour Party in opinion polls with an election expected by June.

Some 48 percent believe Dannatt, who has strongly criticised the government over equipment for British troops in Afghanistan, was wrong to become embroiled in party politics just six weeks after retiring from the army.

A total of 221 British troops have died in the Afghanistan campaign since the 2001 US-led invasion. Of these, at least 190 were killed in action, according to the Ministry of Defence.