01/08/2011 02:18 BST | Updated 30/09/2011 06:12 BST

Tours Of Duty For British Soldiers Could Double To A Year, Says Commander

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- Some British soldiers could be posted on year-long tours of Afghanistan to maintain continuity during the crucial withdrawal period, according to the commander of Task Force Helmand.

In an interview with The Independent, Brigadier Ed Davis said the "spine" of brigades sent in the future may be deployed for longer than the current six months.

A large proportion of those affected would be specialist troops involved in intelligence and the mentoring and advising of Afghan forces, rather than soldiers on the front line, he added.

Brigadier Davis, of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, said: "The constant churn of people with whom you have really strong relationships is hard, so I think you need to reduce that by having people in theatre for longer.

"I suspect over time we'll see these changes and a larger percentage of people doing longer tours ... We are looking at nine to 12 months.

"I am talking about a number of groups, some of the specialists, the mentor teams, advisory mentor teams, and maybe some of the other functions we might be looking at extending like intelligence. This is because the 'knowledge depth' is so great, it makes sense to have people here a bit longer."

The proposed lengthened tours of duty will come in the lead up to the end of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014.

Brigadier Davis added: "The bulk of the structure and the six-month employment sample will carry on, I think certainly for the foreseeable future. The programme will go through until 2014, that's the intent at the moment."

British troops handed over control of the provincial capital to Afghan forces two weeks ago.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The MoD is always examining how best to generate and sustain our armed forces, including by looking at the length of tours and the intervals between them. However, the vast majority of personnel serve six-month tours and there are no current plans to change this."