UK offers to host Afghanistan conference next year

Britain has offered to host an international conference early next year to set a timetable for transferring security responsibilities to Afghan forces from 2010, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.
The bloodiest year for British troops in Afghanistan has fuelled public opposition to the campaign, creating another headache for Brown as he tries to close a big gap on the Conservatives ahead of an election due by June.
Brown, trying to show voters he had an exit strategy, argues that expanding training of Afghan security forces may allow Britain to reduce its troop numbers over time.
He also presented the mission as part of the fight against al Qaeda, the militant Islamist group.
Brown said that he had offered London as a venue for an international meeting on Afghanistan in the New Year. Brown had referred to the conference being held in January in earlier excerpts from speech released to media.
“I want that conference to chart a comprehensive political framework within which the military strategy can be accomplished,” he said in a speech on Monday evening.
“It should identify a process for transferring district by district to full Afghan control and if at all possible we should set a timetable for transfer starting next year, in 2010.”
Britain has the second largest foreign military contingent in Afghanistan after the United States, with 9000 soldiers.
But the rise in the British death toll to 234 since the US-led invasion in 2001 has led many Britons to question the war while Brown has been accused of failing to provide British forces with the helicopters and armoured vehicles they need.
Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy jointly proposed a conference on Afghanistan in September.
Brown also welcomed the decision by the Afghan government to set up a new anti-corruption unit.

Pic: British Prime Minister- Gordan Brown