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Britain's Gordon Brown defends Afghan war

The British prime minister says insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan still pose a threat. But an aide quits over strategy.

September 05, 2009|Associated Press

LONDON — Prime Minister Gordon Brown defended Britain's military presence in Afghanistan in a major policy speech Friday that came as a defense aide quit over the mission's strategy.

Brown said that insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan still present major terrorist threats.

"Each time I have to ask myself if we are doing the right thing by being in Afghanistan. Each time I have to ask myself if we can justify sending our young men and women to fight for this cause," Brown said in a keynote speech to the Institute of Strategic Studies. "And my answer has always been yes."

American and British opinion polls have shown waning support since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began in 2001. More than 730 American troops and 212 British military personnel have died.

Brown said casualties had risen recently, due in part to the Taliban's increased use of roadside bombs.

Brown has been criticized for failing to give clear answers on Afghanistan and other policy issues.

Defense aide Eric Joyce, a former army officer and Labor Party member, resigned on the eve of Brown's speech. He said the government had failed to justify the war to voters and urged Brown to specify when the 9,000 British troops would be withdrawn.

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