Extra £2.5bn pledged for Afghanistan campaign

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Indy Politics

An extra £2.5 billion has been earmarked to fund the military campaign in Afghanistan next year as the allies ramp up efforts against the Taliban.

Chancellor Alistair Darling announced the additional cash shortly after tributes had been paid by MPs in the Commons to the 100th soldier killed there this year.

Britain is to send 500 more troops as part of the beefed-up operation, with the US providing a 30,000-strong reinforcement and other allies contributing at least 7,000.

The milestone in fatalities has reinforced intense public scrutiny of whether the UK presence in Afghanistan is justified amid evidence of falling support for the Government's strategy.

Mr Darling said the forces fighting there "deserve all our support and we must match that support with resources", pledging also to cut the costs of civilian staff in the Ministry of Defence and restructuring it to improve the effectiveness of frontline spending.

He also promised that the "special circumstances" of the armed forces would be taken into account when deciding pay rises - with the rest of the public sector facing a 1 per cent cap from 2011.

And he said there would be extra help for those leaving the armed forces with £5 million being set aside from the Strategic Investment Fund to help ex-servicemen and women set up their own businesses.