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British troops to remain in Afghanistan for 3 more years+
[April 23, 2006]

British troops to remain in Afghanistan for 3 more years+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)KABUL, April 23_(Kyodo) _ British troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least three more years to keep pounding Taliban and al-Qaida militants and prevent them from returning to power, British Defense Secretary John Reid said Sunday.

"The greatest danger of all for the people of Afghanistan and the people of the United Kingdom would be if Afghanistan ever again came under the rule of a Taliban regime prepared to protect al-Qaida or terrorist groups," Reid said in a joint press conference with Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak in Kabul.

He also suggested British troops would stay in Afghanistan for at least three more years, saying, "We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years' time without firing one shot because our mission is to protect the reconstruction."

About 3,000 British troops are currently deployed in southern Helmand Province as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's planned expansion to fight the rising militancy and the booming poppy cultivation and drug trade in southern Afghanistan.

Remnants of the Taliban and the al-Qaida international terrorist organization have stepped up their attacks on Afghan and foreign troops mostly in southern parts of the country, more violently this year, since the ouster of the Taliban leadership in late 2001.

The Taliban leadership was toppled in the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The NATO forces which currently number more than 9,000 are gradually expanding toward volatile southern Afghanistan.

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