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British PM bunks with troops in surprise Afghan visit

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Gordon Brown visits troops
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stays overnight in Afghanistan for first time
  • Brown would normally fly into country for daylong visits before leaving
  • Brown has pledged to send 500 additional troops to region

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spent the night among troops in Afghanistan, the first time he has stayed overnight in the war-torn nation.

Brown flew in Saturday night and slept at military quarters at the Kandahar air base, a spokesman in his office said.

Until now, Brown -- like his predecessor, Tony Blair -- would fly into the country for daylong visits and then fly out.

On Sunday, Brown talked with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who flew to Kandahar. Brown also met with troops, was debriefed by army leaders, and inspected new military equipment.

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Video: Brown visits Afghanistan
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The Taliban rose to power in Kandahar province before it was toppled by U.S.-led forces in late 2001. However, the militant group has resurged in recent years, and coalition troops have been fighting ever since to contain the threat.

Brown's unannounced visit follows the British government's pledge of 500 extra troops to complement President Obama's decision to send 3,000 additional American troops.

More than 9,000 British troops are stationed in southern Afghanistan, primarily in Helmand province. It has been a militant stronghold and a poppy-growing region that helps fund the insurgency, analysts say. It supplies 90 percent of the world's opium, which is used in the production of heroin.

This year alone, 100 British service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

The United Kingdom has the largest contingent in Afghanistan after the United States. The figure for British troops does not include special forces. Brown has declined to say exactly how many of those were there, but indicated it is more than 500.