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Brown takes new strategy to Afghanistan, Pakistan
Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:43am EDT
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By Adrian Croft
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown flew to Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday touting a new security strategy for the region as international alarm spreads over Taliban advances.
"This area and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the crucible for global terrorism," Brown told British and allied troops at a base in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province, where Britain has played the leading role fighting the Taliban.
"It's important to recognize that if we do not take action and we do not fight back against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, then people in Britain and in other countries represented here are less safe."
British troops in Helmand will be reinforced in coming weeks by the arrival of more than 8,000 U.S. Marines, a massive influx that NATO commanders hope will reverse what they have described as a stalemate in one of the country's most violent provinces.
After meeting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Brown said he would next fly to Pakistan to hold talks with President Asif Ali Zardari.
Asked what Britain would do about instability on the Pakistani side of the border, Brown said: "It's clear ... that we cannot sit by and allow this center, or epicenter, of terrorism to continue to exist without taking further action."
Although the Western forces are massing on the Afghan side of the border, attention in Western capitals is increasingly turning across the frontier to Pakistan, where Taliban influence has spread in recent weeks to valleys northwest of the capital.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that Washington was worried about the advancing Taliban seizing control of the Pakistani state, including "the keys to the nuclear arsenal of Pakistan."
NUCLEAR WEAPONS SAFE
Zardari told reporters on Monday that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe.
Officials traveling with Brown said the new strategy, to be published on Wednesday, will echo a plan unveiled by U.S. President Barack Obama in calling for a focus on fighting al Qaeda and Taliban militants on both sides of the border.
Like Obama's plan, the British strategy will stress the need to train tens of thousands more Afghan soldiers and police to take over responsibility for security from foreign troops.
Unlike Obama, Brown has so far promised few new troops.
Britain has 8,300 soldiers in Afghanistan, the second largest contingent after the United States, and has pledged to send 700 to temporarily boost security for an election in August.
"We are confident that we are shouldering our share of the burden," Brown said. Continued...
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