Britain 'resolute' in commitment to Afghan war effort: US

7th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced confidence on Monday that Britain is "resolute" in its commitment to the war in Afghanistan.

Speaking to reporters on his way to London, Gates said he was encouraged in his initial talks with Britain's new defence secretary, Liam Fox.

"Based on the preliminary conversations that I've had with Dr Fox, I have the sense that the new British government is quite resolute with respect to Afghanistan and reaffirming the commitment there," said Gates, after a visit to Azerbaijan and Singapore.

Gates said the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan would likely be high on the agenda when he meets Prime Minister David Cameron later on Monday and his British counterpart on Tuesday.

He said he had no intention of asking London to contribute more troops to Afghanistan, where 9,500 British troops form part of a 60-nation force.

The Pentagon chief said "the United Kingdom has done everything anybody can expect of it."

"I think they've really stepped up and as usual been an admirable partner."

Public backing for the war is on the decline in Britain amid expectations the new coalition government will review the military's presence in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence announced on Saturday that two British soldiers were killed in a small arms clash with insurgents in Afghanistan's south.

The deaths bring to 292 the number of British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

In a speech on Saturday at a security conference in Singapore, Fox said British troops needed to stay in Afghanistan to prevent it from becoming a failed state and a breeding ground for terrorism.

© 2010 AFP

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