Brown stresses Afghan resolve despite 100th death

LONDON Mon Dec 7, 2009 8:53pm GMT

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh wait for a chinook helicopter to land during a training exercise, ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan, at Dale Barracks in Chester, northern England December 3, 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh wait for a chinook helicopter to land during a training exercise, ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan, at Dale Barracks in Chester, northern England December 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Phil Noble

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LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged to "stay the course" in Afghanistan on Monday as the British military death toll there this year reached 100.

A British soldier was shot dead in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, on Monday, raising the total to 100 since January, the government said.

British troops have been involved in a U.S.-led assault on a Taliban stronghold in Helmand in the last few days.

In a statement, Brown said honouring the memory of soldiers who died in Afghanistan meant "staying the course, doing what is right for Britain, and seeing this mission through."

"Our military presence in Afghanistan means that al Qaeda cannot use the country as a base from which to plot terrorist attacks against Britain," he said.

This year has seen the fiercest fighting of the eight-year Afghan conflict and the rising military death toll has undermined public support for the mission in Britain and other countries.

More than 300 U.S. troops have been killed this year.

The United States and NATO allies are sending tens of thousands of new troops to Afghanistan to try to turn the tide in the battle against Taliban insurgents. Britain is sending another 500 troops, raising its force to around 10,000, including special forces.

Brown, who faces an uphill struggle to win an election due by next June, has been accused of failing to give British troops adequate equipment and failing to set out a clear justification for their mission in Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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