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LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged Wednesday to send more troops to Afghanistan but only if NATO and the Afghan government do more to help fight the Taliban.
Brown said his government would increase British troop levels to 9,500 – an increase of about 500 – on the condition that President Hamid Karzai reduce corruption and improve his government's performance. Brown also pledged to send troops only if he can provide them with the proper equipment, and if NATO allies increase their contributions to the war effort.
Military experts said Brown wants to show British support for the war as the U.S. debates an increase in its Afghan troop levels and he is unlikely to call off the deployment. Brown did not specify what contributions he is seeking from NATO nations, or exactly what the Afghans must do to get the extra forces, an indication that the conditions are largely designed to put political pressure on Karzai and NATO, they said.
The increase in British troops is small and may be of mostly symbolic importance, but it will likely be welcomed by President Barack Obama as his administration ponders difficult options in Afghanistan. These include a possible increase in U.S. forces, which now number about 67,000. Britain is the second-largest force in the 42-nation NATO coalition in Afghanistan.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration was pleased by Brown's announcement. He said Brown informed Obama of his decision last week when the two leaders spoke by telephone.