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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Cameron flies in to Afghanistan
David Cameron, pictured last month in London
Mr Cameron will be "listening, learning and showing support"
Conservative leader David Cameron has arrived in Afghanistan to visit British troops and assure them that his party supports the job they are doing.

He flew in on a Ministry of Defence jet to the former Taleban stronghold of Kandahar amid strict secrecy following the recent upsurge in violence.

It is his first visit to British troops overseas since becoming Tory leader.

He said the trip would be devoted to "listening, learning and showing our support for what is being done".

Mr Cameron is being accompanied by shadow defence secretary Liam Fox and Brigadier Ed Butler, the Commander of Britain's 5,000-strong contribution to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force.

Brigadier Butler said military top brass were considering a "rebalancing" of their deployment in Helmand, but declined to confirm reports that this might involve pulling back detachments from the more remote outposts in the north of the province where they have come under fiercest attack.


Mr Cameron was meeting military commanders and air crew from the RAF squadrons operating Harrier GR7s, Chinook helicopters and Hercules transport aircraft from Kandahar airfield.

He said: "The purpose of this visit is extremely straightforward and simple. It is to show support for what our troops are doing in Afghanistan and show that there is a cross-party consensus for the very difficult and important work that they are doing.

We ask our troops to do incredibly difficult and dangerous work on our behalf and I believe it is only right to see at first hand what they are being asked to deal with
David Cameron

"The second purpose is to see for myself the challenges, the difficulties and the opportunities and to learn about what we are doing and how well it is working."

Defence Secretary Des Browne announced on 10 July that there would be 900 additional troops for southern Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron said manpower and equipment levels remained an "ongoing issue", adding: "The government say that they have always responded positively to requests from the Army and it will obviously be interesting being here, being able to ask the questions myself."

He praised the "professionalism and dedication and sheer ability to get the job done" of British troops and said it was important for politicians to see first hand the conditions in which they are asked to serve.

'Very welcome'

"We ask our troops to do incredibly difficult and dangerous work on our behalf and I believe it is only right to see at first hand what they are being asked to deal with," he said.

Brigadier Butler said that the deployment in Helmand was always expected to be tough.

"We fully expected the Taleban to have a resurgence of the violence which we are seeing," he said.

"I sense that we are at the tip of that spike of enemy activity. They are certainly very persistent and ferocious in their attacks, but I also think that it will only be a matter of weeks, maybe months before these levels of attacks will start to tail off.

"On every occasion we have come up against the Taleban, we have significantly overmatched them, demonstrating that the force is well trained, prepared and equipped to take on this very complex and challenging operation."

He said that the reinforcements, which will bring UK strength in Helmand up to 4,500 by October, were "very welcome".

See British forces on the ground in Helmand province

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