Britain to make announcement on troop deployment to Afghanistan

Defense Secretary John Reid will announce Thursday how many more British troops will be deployed to &to=http://english.pravda.ru/main/2003/01/05/41643.html' target=_blank>Afghanistan, when Britain takes command of an expanding NATO mission in the volatile country.

Britain has 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, but has said it will increase numbers as &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/20/91/365/16760_NATO.html' target=_blank>NATO pushes into the more dangerous south where they will likely face Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents, war lords and drug trafficking gangs.

Reid said a final decision on the deployment would be made after discussions with Cabinet colleagues on Thursday and that he would immediately make a statement to the House of Commons.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported Wednesday that NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said a figure of 3,500 extra troops would be "not far off the mark".

Reid said earlier Wednesday that a report in The Sun newspaper on Wednesday, that some 4,000 troops would be sent from 16 Air Assault Brigade and 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, could "turn out to be right, but it could turn out to be very, very wrong indeed."

Reid announced in November that troops from the brigade and the Joint Helicopter Command were being prepared for possible deployment.