British ground troops on standby
LONDON, England (CNN) -- British ground troops are expected to learn on Friday that they will be deployed in the war on terror, CNN has learned.
British Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram is due to announce the deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan during a speech to the House of Commons at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Friday.
The forces are expected to include elite mountain and winter warfare troops of the Royal Marines currently on exercises in Oman, according to the British Press Association.
British Defence Secretary Jeff Hoon is travelling to Oman to meet British troops there, according to the Ministry of Defence.
More than 23,000 British troops have been in Oman taking part in Swift Sword Two, a joint exercise with their Oman counterparts. The number of British forces there has been billed as the largest deployment of British forces since the early 1980s.
Britain already has participated in the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan that began more than three weeks ago. This has included a British submarine firing cruise missiles, refuelling planes and aiding surveillance missions.
Sources also have told CNN that there had been a periodic presence of U.S. Special Forces and British Special Air Service (SAS) forces on the ground in Afghanistan.
NATO -- which for the first time ever has invoked Article 5 of its charter, which recognises that an attack against one member should be considered an attack against all -- has already deployed a naval force to the eastern Mediterranean.
The naval force is part of NATO's immediate response forces and includes ships from Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and the United States.
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