PRWeek can reveal that head of news Emily Hands will take on a new post focused on communicating political and military developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hands will be replaced by Vickie Sheriff, head of news at the Ministry of Justice.
The move comes as the UK and its international coalition partners look to step up efforts to defeat the Taliban and to tackle the threat posed by Al Qaeda.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week that he had agreed in principle to increase the size of the British force in Afghanistan from 9,000 to 9,500. The top US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, is reportedly seeking up to 40,000 more US troops for the conflict.
In the new role, Hands will provide strategic communications and support to government departments involved in the military effort. She will also provide a point of international co-ordination for the 42 countries involved in the campaign.
Hands will take up the new role at the end of month, operating from Number 10 and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
She will continue to report to Simon Lewis, the Prime Minister's recently-installed director of comms and official spokesman. However she will no longer deputise for Lewis, who is responsible for conducting Westminster lobby briefings.
Sherrif is expected to take on the Downing Street head of news role for an initial three month period, with a view to staying on longer. She has 16 years of experience in Whitehall, with previous roles including press secretary at the Treasury and head of press at the Department for International Development.