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, saying he would not ask London to offer more troops.

Speaking to reporters on his plane bound for 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.

After arriving in London, Gates met Prime Minister David Cameron at his Downing Street office with the NATO-led mission featuring prominently in their discussions.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister reiterated UK support for US strategy, including the plan progressively to transition security responsibilities to the government of Afghanistan as their capacity develops."

Cameron and Gates also discussed Iran's nuclear programme "and the importance of securing early agreement on an additional package of sanctions," the spokesman added.

Gates said earlier that Britain, which has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 60-nation force, "has done everything anybody can expect of it."

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

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.

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.

In a speech on Saturday at a security conference in Singapore, Britain's new Defence Secretary Liam Fox said British troops needed to stay in Afghanistan to prevent the country from becoming a failed state and a breeding ground for extremists.

Gates was due to hold a working lunch with Fox on Tuesday and was later to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague, before heading to Brussels for a NATO meeting with defence ministers.

© 2010 AFP

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