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Kandahar move 'possible' for troops

British troops in Afghanistan could still be moved to Kandahar province "in the longer term", a briefing document for MPs has stated.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in June it was "highly unlikely" that the UK's 8,000 troops in Helmand province would be redeployed to neighbouring Kandahar.

But a briefing paper on the Parliament website said the pull-out of the Dutch and Canadian contingents in southern Afghanistan would require a "re-division of forces" unless other countries provided more troops.

"On that basis, the proposal to relocate British forces to Kandahar in the longer term cannot be completely disregarded," it said.

The Netherlands began withdrawing its 1,950 troops in Uruzgan province, which borders Kandahar and Helmand, at the start of this month and Canada will bring home its 2,830-strong contingent in Kandahar next year.

Speaking alongside US defence secretary Robert Gates in June, Dr Fox confirmed that he discussed the possibility of British forces being moved with General Stanley McChrystal, then-commander of the Nato mission in Afghanistan.

But he added: "I think it would be quite a leap for us to leave Helmand to be redeployed in Kandahar, not taking into account the enormous cost there would be likely to be in making such a change.

"So I think it is highly unlikely that that will happen. And it is certainly not something that we will be proposing."

Gen McChrystal's successor, General David Petraeus, has inherited a long-planned major military operation to secure Kandahar, Afghanistan's second biggest city and the Taliban's spiritual home.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted there were no current plans to move British forces to Kandahar. He said: "If General Petraeus decided that was what he wanted, we would look carefully at that proposal. There is no proposal for that at the moment. We haven't been asked to do that and we are not expecting a request in the near future."


From Belfast Telegraph