- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

LONDON Britain's Defense Ministry is planning to go back on a government promise that British troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan within three months.
Britain's leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan was made conditional on it doing so for half of the force's six-month term.
But the British ISAF headquarters, from 16 Air Assault Brigade, and the British infantry contribution, at present a parachute regiment battalion, will be replaced by British units.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that a brigade headquarters from within 3 UK Division and a front-line infantry battalion already have been designated to take over for the last three months of the ISAF mission.
That will add to the difficulties for Britain's overstretched armed forces that led Geoff Hoon, Britain's defense secretary, to set the original three-month limit.
The army is supposed to have about 108,000 troops but is struggling to reach 100,000, leaving it unable to cope with deployments in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.
Germany initially was scheduled to take charge of ISAF when the British pulled out at the end of April, but Turkey was asked to take over after concerns that the Germans lacked the military infrastructure for the job.
Although the Turkish government initially agreed, it has begun to lay down conditions. In particular it is demanding that someone else pay the cost.
A visit to Turkey and Afghanistan earlier this month by Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, failed to resolve the situation, and Britain is faced with having to keep forces in place for the entire six-month ISAF deployment.
After the visit, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said a compromise had been reached. "But the conditions have not been clarified," he said. "Our financial capabilities will not be enough to take over by ourselves the responsibility of all security, social and economic problems of Afghanistan."
A British defense source said the Ministry of Defense remained "hopeful" that Turkey would take over but admitted that money was the key question, and with the possibility of Britain funding the operation ruled out, the Turks had turned to America.
Given the ambivalent U.S. attitude toward the usefulness of ISAF, a positive response to demands for "serious financial contributions" seems unlikely.

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