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Largest British Troop Deployment heads to Afghanistan

A UK infrantry battle group, spearheaded by 700 Royal Marine Commandos, will be deployed in Afghanistan in the largest British troop deployments since the Gulf War.

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Scouting for terrorists

Royal Marine commandos are heading for Afghanistan in what Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has called the biggest British troop deployment since the Gulf War.

In response to a US request the battle group, which comprises some 1,700 UK troops, are on their way to Afghanistan to help US forces flush out further al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from their mountain strongholds.

The British contigent will join a US-led brigade.

"These troops are being deployed to Afghanistan to take part in war fighting operations", Britsih Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told Members of Parliament in a surprising announcement on Monday.

He said the decision was made following negotiations with the US after Operation Anaconda was brought to an end and said all Cabinet ministers had been consulted.

Hoon explained that it was possible remaining fighters in Afghanistan were planning further terrorist attacks. However, British defence officials said later there was no intelligence warning of any specific threat to Britain.

On standby

The Royal marines, based at Arbroath, Scotland, are trained in mountain warfare. They have been on standby since the war on terrorism begann in Afghanistan in October. Around 240 marine commandos are based on HMS Ocean, the navy’s helicopter carrier now stationed off Pakistan, with Chinnok helicopters on board.

The British battlegroup, which will include artillery, logistic commando groups and egineers, will be ready to start operations by mid-April.

The move by the British government reflects US concern that the fight gainst al Qaeda and Taliban forces is likely to continue for several months.

It is not clear, however, how long the soldiers will remain in the country, because it would "depend on the nature of the operations they conduct and the kind of resistance they meet" he told the BBC’s Newsnight programme Monday evening.

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