UK troops 'could serve nine-month tours'

It is reported that British troops could have their tours in Afghanistan extended to nine months as the end of combat operations approaches.

The Independent newspaper says soldiers in direct combat roles would not be asked to do the extra three months - which suggests the number of people affected would not be that large.

It is not the first time the idea of longer tours has come up. As time runs out in Afghanistan there is still work to be done in training-up Afghan forces. A lot of that is about building trust and relationships over time and longer tours could help with that.

Some personnel in headquarters roles and in Kabul already do more than six months no tour, but Chief Executive of the Army Families Federation, Catherine Spencer, says nine months away would be a big difference.

She says they would want reassurances about what the welfare package would be, including whether there would be two lots of R and R in a nine month tour.

The Ministry of Defence says it is all part of "Army thinking" about possibilities and is not being discussed at a senior level, and may not get that far.

An MOD spokesperson said: “No decisions have been taken on the drawdown profile of the redeployment from Afghanistan. Our focus will remain on advising the ANSF as they continue to grow in capability and assume the lead in their own security. UK Forces will no longer be in a combat role by the end of 2014.”

As the speculation continued today, Forces News cameras were on Salisbury Plain as 2 Lancs take part in their final training exercise before they deploy to Afghanistan in a few weeks’ time.