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In a statement released today, the Secretary of State for Defence revealed that force levels in Afghanistan will increase to 9,000 over the course of the Afghan elections. They will then reduce to an enduring presence of 8,300 in 2010. The following units will be committed over the Summer:
Elements of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers were to be deployed from April until August 2009. They will now serve throughout the election period.
A small number of Volunteer and regular members of the Reserve forces will deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours.
These units will provide important additional capabilities for UK forces in Afghanistan. The reinforcement of two infantry companies will enable troops to provide extra security during the Afghan elections. It is also planned to enhance the capability to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). These devices are a major threat to both troops and to the ordinary Afghan people. Therefore there will be personnel deployed with a range of skills to detect, dispose and exploit IEDs and to prevent them being laid. Other personnel will improve the ability to defend bases while there will also be a reinforcement of reconnaissance capabilities in the guise of increasing the number of tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Sea King Air Surveillance and Control helicopters will also be deployed as well as the new Airborne Stand-Off Radar. These complementary systems track use radar to track movements on the ground. They can help forces to detect, follow and intercept Insurgents before they can lay IEDs.
In addition, the UK will deploy the Headquarters of 6 (UK) Division to command the International Security Assistance Force's Regional Command (South) from November 2009 to November 2010. MERLIN Support Helicopters from 78 Squadron, Royal Air Force are also being prepared for service in Afghanistan. On current plans, they will be available to deploy by late 2009.