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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 15:46 GMT
Gurkhas poised for Afghan mission
Afghans watch British peacekeepers on patrol on Kabul
British troops have been in Kabul since 22 December
A total of 120 Gurkhas are on standby to fly to Afghanistan as part of Britain's role in the international security force, defence officials have said.

The final details are yet to be confirmed but the squad is expected to leave next week.

There is a likelihood that the Gurkhas, as C company within 2 Para, will deploy to Afghanistan

MoD spokesman
The Nepalese fighters are an integral part of the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, one of the companies involved in the peacekeeping force.

A formal agreement was signed in Kabul last week between Afghan's interim government and the British General John McColl, on the deployment of the United Nations-sponsored force.

Suitable skills

Defence chiefs believe the Gurkhas will be able to gain the trust of Afghans because of their ethnic origin and language skills.

Marine in Afghanistan
British troops will lead the international force for three months
And the troops are also likely to be able to acclimatise quickly to high altitudes, if they need to fight in mountainous regions.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "There is a likelihood that the Gurkhas, as C company within 2 Para, will deploy to Afghanistan but a decision has not been taken yet.

"It is an option because they are part of 2 Para, which we have said will be going out there."

The next deployment of troops to Afghanistan is likely to take place in the next week to 10 days.

An advance party comprising British and French troops and reconnaissance officers from 12 European countries is preparing five bases for the remainder of the troops, expected to arrive by mid-January.

Meanwhile Afghanistan's interim government said on Wednesday all armed men, except police and official security personnel, must leave the capital Kabul and return to their bases within three days.

This is under the terms of the agreement on the deployment of the international security force which said all Afghan forces must be confined to barracks on the edge of the capital.

See also:

20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan security force's role unclear
29 Dec 01 | South Asia
Marines patrol streets of Kabul
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