Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Brown pledges 150m to tackle Afghan roadside bombs

Brown: 'Operational funding will include an extra 10 million for mine detectors'

Gordon Brown has announced that £150m will be spent on tackling improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.

The prime minister, who visited troops in Helmand at the weekend, promised that Afghan troops would be trained to detect and disable the IEDs.

He also told MPs there would be a new focus on gaining intelligence from ordinary Afghans on those making IEDs.

Of the 237 UK personnel who have died in Afghanistan, 122 have been killed by explosives - most of them IEDs.

Mine detectors

The prime minister said he would re-prioritise defence spending, with an extra £50m to spend each year over the next three years on equipment aimed at countering the IED threat.

That will include an extra £10m to buy 400 hi-tech hand-held mine detectors.

There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve
Rt Rev Stephen Venner

The money is also expected to pay for a specialist training base to be set up in Britain.

Mr Brown told the House of Commons: "Afghan forces will now be trained to detect and disable IEDs.

"There will be better intelligence from Afghan people about the source of IED planned attacks and encouragement not to harbour those planning attacks on British soldiers."

IEDs have been increasingly used by the Taliban since 2006 and are now being manufactured on an "industrial scale", according to the MoD.

During his visit, the prime minister revealed British forces had destroyed almost 1,500 roadside bombs in the last six months.

In an announcement on Tuesday, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth is also expected to say a new centre will be set up in the UK to analyse aerial surveillance photographs.

As part of the reallocation of funds, he is set to announce the closure of at least one RAF base and a scaling back of the UK sovereign base area in Cyprus, as well as cuts to the MoD Police and back office functions.

COALTION DEATHS
237 UK troops have died
206 as a result of hostile fire
122 by explosions, mostly IEDs
569 Isaf deaths attributed to IEDs
Sources: iCasualties.org; MoD

Later on Monday, military families and former soldiers are due to deliver a petition to Downing Street calling for all British troops to be withdrawn.

Joan Humphries, whose grandson was killed in August 2009, said: "Everyone knows now this is a pointless war, deeply unpopular in Britain and Afghanistan. Young lives are being sacrificed so that politicians can save face."

Basic quarters

During his visit to Afghanistan, the prime minister inspected new equipment and held talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar.

At the Shorabak Afghan army base in Helmand, he witnessed the sort of training local forces are getting to deal with IEDs.

He is expected to tell the Commons that President Karzai has promised to step up the training programme so his forces can take over more of this role from allied troops.

Our correspondent said unusually Mr Brown spent the night in the country, rather than flying in and out in one day.

Gordon Brown: "I am here to thank our troops"

He slept in "basic quarters" at the Kandahar air base, the headquarters of Nato troops in the south of the country.

Admirable qualities

Meanwhile, the new bishop to the armed forces has apologised for saying the Taliban could "perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other".

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Right Reverend Stephen Venner said the attitude taken towards the Taliban had been "too simplistic".

But he later told the BBC his remarks had been taken out of context and what he meant was that not all Taliban members could be regarded as equally evil.

He said he fully supported the armed forces and regretted any offence caused.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Telegraph MoD cuts to affect RAF base and Tornado fleet - 45 mins ago
The Independent Ainsworth sets out 'tough' MoD priorities - 1 hr ago
Ananova 'Tough decisions' due on MoD budget - 2 hrs ago
Build.co.uk Brown's Pledge On Afghan Explosives - 21 hrs ago



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