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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 12:45 GMT
UK to help build Afghan army
2 Para soldiers
2 Para - 'raring to go'
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed Britain will play a key role in helping the Afghan Government to build a new Army.

The Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is being led by British troops, will give the interim administration "new ideas" and may also help the country develop new "security structures" an MoD spokesman said

And there are reports that General Mohammed Fahim, the Afghan defence minister, will also tour Army bases in Britain next month to see how his forces might be run.

According to the Daily Telegraph, he has been invited by Major General John McColl, the ISAF commander, in the hope of persuading him that a small professional army is better than a large coalition of tribal militias.

'Too early'

But the Ministry has refused to be drawn on the details of Britain's role in helping the Afghans to set up an army.

An MoD spokesman said: "The military technical agreement signed on January 4, stated that one of the main roles of the ISAF force may include helping the Afghan interim administration develop new security structures.

"We can confirm the ISAF has given the interim government new ideas on how they can rebuild the army but it's too early to say how these ideas may develop."

It is believed Gen Fahim, who currently has 15,000 men under his command, has ambitions to build an army of 250,000 - two-and-a-half times the size of the British Army.

The news came as another batch of British troops were due to arrive in Afghanistan on Tuesday, to join the security force in Kabul.

Keen

Eighty-seven members of the 2 Battalion The Parachute Regiment, including 45 Gurkhas, will work with the interim authority there to help to secure both key installations and the airport in the city.

A further seven flights containing members of 2 Para, part of the Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade, are expected to leave Britain throughout this week for Afghanistan.

Major Dan O'Donnell, 34, the commanding officer of C Gurkha Company, says his men are "raring to go" and keen to get on to the streets of Afghanistan's war-ravaged city.

The battalion only returned from Macedonia in October following a highly successful 30-day mission to collect weapons from the National Liberation Army.


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14 Nov 01 | UK
Spotlight on 2 Para
21 Jan 02 | UK
UK troops back from Kabul
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