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From the BBC Website, 17th September

A total of 71,560 members of Britain's armed forces have served in Afghanistan since 2001, the government has said.

Tory MP Philip Hollobone, who obtained the figures, said they revealed the full extent of Britain's commitment to the Afghan war for the first time.

The figure includes regular forces, reservists and Gurkhas.

The Ministry of Defence said similar figures were not available for Iraq, but "about 100,000" members of the UK armed forces had served there in total.

In his written answer, Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell told Mr Hollobone: "As at 1 August 2009, 71,560 members of the UK armed forces have been identified as having deployed to Afghanistan.

"This includes UK regular forces, Gurkhas, Full Time Reserve Service (FTRS) personnel and mobilised reservists."

'Up front'

Mr Hollobone told BBC News he had been "surprised" by how high the number had been, adding: "I doubt if there has been a theatre of conflict where British armed forces have been more exposed, in terms of number of personnel deployed, since Northern Ireland."

He added: "The longer our commitment goes on in Afghanistan, there is a very strong likelihood that anyone joining the forces can expect to be sent there."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said it was "very up front with recruits" that they would be likely to be deployed to Afghanistan or another theatre of operations.

"The days when people joined the forces for a career and were never deployed in theatre are long gone," he added.

He said there were "about 170,000" members of the British armed forces in total at the moment.

He said no research had been done into how many of them had served in Iraq since 2003.

There are currently 9,000 British troops in Afghanistan, with the vast bulk - 6,200 - in the southern province of Helmand, serving as part of an international coalition.

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