updated 6/16/2008 8:56:20 PM ET 2008-06-17T00:56:20

Defense Secretary Des Browne announced Monday that 230 more British troops are going to Afghanistan, bringing the country's troop strength there to more than 8,000.

Browne told the House of Commons that 230 new troops include engineers, logistical staff and military trainers. Browne said the increase “means our mission is expanding” to include a greater emphasis on building the capacity of Afghan forces.

There are currently 7,800 British troops in the country, most based in Helmand province in the south.

A total of 102 British troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001 — most in fighting with a resurgent Taliban since 2006.

The deaths, including five paratroopers killed in the past week, have made the Afghan commitment increasingly unpopular in Britain.

Browne, however, said the Afghan mission was “a noble cause” and said the security situation had improved.

“The Taliban are losing the fight in southern Afghanistan,” he said.

Brown’s announcement follows a call Friday by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for NATO allies to step up their efforts in Afghanistan.

NATO’s force of 52,000 troops has doubled over the past two years, but still lacks key resources such as transport aircraft, intelligence units, instructors for Afghan forces and quick reaction troops.

Gates has long complained that many European nations have refused to send troops to southern provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar where British, Canadian, U.S. and Dutch troops have borne the brunt of fighting over the past two years.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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