- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Most Britons don’t buy their government’s argument for keeping a military presence in Afghanistan, a poll published Monday shows.

A BBC-commissioned ComRes poll showed that 60 percent of Britons don’t believe their leaders have made the case for keeping troops in the war-torn country. Just over a third of those polled said they were “fairly” or “very convinced” by their government’s arguments for staying there.

At about 8,000 soldiers, Britain’s NATO contingent is the second-largest in Afghanistan behind the United States. But NATO forces are fighting an uphill battle against resurgent Taliban rebels in the south of the country and government officials have complained that Britain shoulders a disproportionate share of the alliance’s fighting.

The British military has lost 152 personnel since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, including two who were killed Sunday by an explosion in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan.

Thousands of new U.S. troops are due in Afghanistan this year, and Britain is also weighing whether and by how much to increase its presence in the country. British Defense Secretary John Hutton has not ruled out an increase in personnel.

ComRes said the telephone poll of 1,013 adults was carried out between March 6 and 8. No margin of error was given, but polls of that size typically have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

The poll also showed that nearly three-quarters of Britons believe there should be an official inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq once Britain removes most of its remaining forces from the country there in July.

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On the Net:

ComRes poll (PDF): http://tinyurl.com/dabpql

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