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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 06:32 GMT
Straw hails Britain's Afghan role
British Royal Marines in Afghanistan
The international force could be 5,000 strong
Jack Straw is expected to hail the UK's role in liberating Afghanistan as one reason why Britain is seen as a "powerful force for good" around the world.

Following the arrival of more UK troops in Kabul on Monday, the foreign secretary is due to use a New Year address to staff to emphasise British efforts on the international stage.

Mr Straw will say the US suicide hijackings, which triggered the war on terrorism, have shone a light on the "dedication and professionalism" of the staff of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

He will say: "September 11 had a deep impact on all of us."
British soldier
British soldiers patrol Kabul

"Yet in the days that followed those harrowing events in the United States, few of us could have imagined that, on this New Year's Day, so many people would be freed of fear and oppression and that the Union flag would once more fly over the British Embassy in Kabul."

Meanwhile, more UK troops have arrived in the Afghan capital to make way for the international peacekeeping force.

The Military Technical Agreement (MTA), setting out their tasks and role, was finally initialled at 1100 GMT on Monday and is expected to be formally signed at a later date.

Contributing countries

After delays in negotiations, blamed on translation of documents, the interim Afghan administration and the head of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) initialled the MTA.

It is now being sent to defence chiefs from the troop-contributing nations before a review and formal signature by British Major General John McColl and Yunus Qanooni.

The process could be completed within 24-48 hours but the numbers of troops being sent by each nation will not be revealed until it is finalised.

Many of the newly-arrived British troops are part of an "enabling unit" sent to plan the arrival of the main body of the British-led force, which is expected to number up to 5,000 troops.
Hamid Karzai, head of the administration
The interim administration is still negotiating a deal

Some 15 senior staff officers from the contributing countries, led by Brigadier Barney White-Spunner, the commander of Britain's 16 Air Assault Brigade, are heading for Kabul on Monday, the Daily Telegraph said.

The full force is unlikely to be in place until mid to late January.

Popular support

Afghan Defence Minister General Mohammed Fahim expressed unease about the force.

But the BBC's Ian Macwilliam, in Kabul, says there is almost unanimous support for the force among the city's residents.

The force is planned to help stabilise Afghanistan as the interim government, which replaced the defeated Taleban regime, begins to rebuild the country after 22 years of war.

Britain is to lead the force for the first three months, and will provide a contingent of up to 1,500 troops from HQ 3 (UK) Division, 16 Air Assault Brigade and 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"The force is now gathering properly"
The BBC's Ian McWilliam in Kabul
"It is hoped there will be a substantial force on the ground by mid-January"


Political uncertainty






See also:

28 Dec 01 | South Asia
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
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