Prime minister also says he has had a 'very friendly conversation' with Rupert Murdoch about Sun's coverage of his condolence letter
Gordon Brown in Afghanistan earlier this year. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Gordon Brown said today that he was leading a drive to get Britain's non-American coalition partners to commit another 5,000 troops to the Nato operation in Afghanistan.
In a interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the prime minister also said that he had had a "very friendly conversation" this week with Rupert Murdoch about the Sun's coverage of his Afghanistan policy and the letter he wrote to a woman who lost a son in the conflict.defence secretary, and Simon McDonald, a senior foreign policy adviser, to embark on a round of diplomatic lobbying to get other countries to contribute more troops to Afghanistan.
"I think we could probably get another 5,000 forces into Afghanistan from that Nato and outside Nato group," Brown said today.
In the interview, Brown also:
• Dismissed claims that Britain was planning to "talk to the Taliban" in Afghanistan, although he did raise the prospect of "mercenaries" fighting for the Taliban being reintegrated into Afghan society.
• Claimed that Britain had "led the way" in developing a new international strategy in Afghanistan and that Barack Obama would be following a similar approach to the one outlined by Brown.
• Disclosed that he had had a "very friendly" conversation with Murdoch this week. "I have got a great deal of respect for what he has done and I hope that he has some respect for me," Brown said.
But Brown also suggested that this would not necessarily affect the Sun's attitude to his premiership. "Decisions that the Sun makes through its editor and then its London operation are a matter for them," Brown said.
This week Brown was strongly attacked by the Sun after it claimed that an untidy and badly spelt handwritten letter he sent to Jacqui Janes, whose son was killed in Afghanistan, illustrated the prime minister's disregard for the armed forces. Brown's allies thought the attack was unfair because the prime minister's handwriting is affected by his poor eyesight.
Asked if he was hurt by the coverage, Brown said: "The criticism of me and the questioning of me is nothing to what I know parents – and I count Jacqui Janes in that – [are] going through."
He said that Janes had "legitimate questions about what happened to her son" and that the government had to answer them.
Brown has already announced that he will send another 500 troops to Afghanistan if other countries also send more soldiers and today Brown said that he was confident that other countries would make this commitment.
"I'm sending people around Europe pressing other countries that they should commit more troops," he said.
"We all want Nato allies to help. I'm asking them to help. I think we could probably get another 5,000 forces into Afghanistan from that Nato and outside Nato group," he said.
Brown claimed that the strategy that he outlined earlier this year, involving coalition forces working with the Afghan army and police to build up their capacity to the point where they can take charge of Afghan security, was now accepted by the Afghans and the rest of Nato.
He also said that Obama agreed with his approach. The American president has been delaying for weeks an announcement about new troop deployments to Afghanistan, but Brown said that he had talked to Obama about this and that he was "satisfied" that the president was thinking along the same lines.
"The strategy that I outlined is very much in line with what President Obama wants to achieve," he said.
Today the BBC reported the existence of a leaked memo proposing a strategic reconciliation between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders.
It said the "right combination of carrot and stick, at the right moment, will be critical to changing the calculations of individual commanders and their men".
The memo read: "We must weaken and divide the Taliban if we are to reduce the insurgency to a level that can be managed and contained by the Afghan security forces.
"This can be achieved by a combination of military pressure and clear signals that the option of an honourable exit from the fight exists. Putting in place the right combination of carrot and stick, at the right moment, will be critical to changing the calculations of individual commanders and their men."
There was no date or author on the sections of the memo seen by the BBC.
But it called for an Afghan-led, internationally backed process that would involve reintegrating footsoldiers and their immediate commanders, the reintegration of the Taliban's "shadow governors", senior commanders and their forces, and a final stage that is described as "reconciliation – a settlement with (most of) the Quetta Shura".
The Quetta Shura is the council based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, over the border from southern Afghanistan, which is believed to direct a considerable portion of Taliban activity.
It also called for "reconciled Talibs" to be removed from the sanctions list established under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
In his interview, Brown was not asked directly about the memo but he was asked if "talking to the Taliban" was an option. He replied: "That's not plan B."
The British wanted to "build up Afghan institutions and weaken the Taliban". But he said that if those members of the Taliban who were not "ideological extremists" were prepared to renounce violence, they could join the political process and that would provide "reconciliation".
Brown said that happened at the end of most conflicts. But it was not his strategy.
In a reference to the plan proposed by Kim Howells, the former Foreign Office minister, in a Guardian article last week, the prime minister also said he was rejecting the "fortress Britain" strategy that would involve a phased withdrawal of British troops and strengthening of anti-terrorism measures in the UK.
Brown said he rejected this because three quarters of terrorist plots against the UK originated in Afghanistan and Pakistan.