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UK troops escort Afghan officials

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- About 80 British marines escorted the first dignitaries arriving for the installation of Afghanistan's new regime.

The troops accompanied the officials from Bagram Airport to Kabul ahead of Saturday's ceremony swearing in the interim cabinet and its leader Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun tribal leader from southern Afghanistan.

Some of the troops had only arrived in Bagram themselves a few hours earlier.

The troops travelled to the capital in two separate truck convoys accompanied by helicopters flying overhead.

The first troops belonging to a multinational peacekeeping force arrived in Afghanistan. CNN's John Vause reports (December 21)

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The British Royal marines then stationed themselves at their embassy ahead of the arrival of the main peacekeeping force.

Negotiations will take place with the new interim government to increase the numbers by the end of the year.

About 53 British troops had flown in to Bagram Airport late on Thursday and will act as a spearhead to a possible full British contingent of 1,500 and an international team of 4,000 from 16 nations.

The arrival of the troops from 40 Command Division came only hours after the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to authorise a multinational force.

They bring the total number of British soldiers on Afghan soil to 200, a British Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman in London told CNN on Friday.

Germany's Cabinet has approved deploying up to 1,200 troops for the stabilisation force, a government spokeswoman said.

Before the German troops can be deployed the plan must also be authorised by parliament, which is holding a special sitting on Saturday when it is widely expected to follow the Cabinet's lead.

The force will be under the command of British Gen. John McColl, who has been in Kabul negotiating the terms under which it will operate.

The MoD spokesman added that December 28 remains the target date for deployment of the 1,500 British troops, which will consist of two divisions of paratroopers and air assault brigades.


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