David Cameron To Detail 'Modest' Troop Withdrawals From Afghanistan

'Modest' Troop Withdrawals From Afghanistan

Press Association -- David Cameron will announce further details of British troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

In a statement to the Commons following a two-day visit to Kabul and Helmand, the Prime Minister will reiterate his commitment to end the UK's combat role in the conflict by 2015.

However, he stressed during the trip that any short-term pull-outs would be "modest", saying there would be no "radical change" in numbers for the next year.

Some 450 mainly auxiliary British personnel are already scheduled to be withdrawn in the coming months. Weekend reports suggested Mr Cameron was to announce a further 500 next year.

The Government has been under pressure to follow the example of US President Barack Obama, who announced last month that 10,000 troops deployed as part of the so-called "surge" strategy would be coming home by the end of this year, and another 23,000 next.

After public concerns from a series of senior military figures, Mr Cameron has played down the prospects of a significant pull-out soon. British levels - currently at about 9,500 - were "not going to see a radical change for the fighting season of next year", he added.

The Prime Minister's visit coincided with the death of another UK soldier, named on Tuesday night as Highlander Scott McLaren of 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The 20-year-old had earlier disappeared from a Nato checkpoint in central Helmand, sparking a massive 17-hour search.

Mr Cameron acknowledged the "high price" the UK had paid in seeking to help stabilise Afghanistan and prevent it reverting to a haven for terrorists.

At a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, the Prime Minister restated his determination to have UK forces off the front line within four years. "I have always been clear that the end of 2014 is a deadline. We will not be here in large numbers or in a combat role," he said. "If what we are doing was not working by then then I think you would have some serious questions to ask me."

Mr Cameron also insisted that the planned transition to Afghan security control in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah later this month remained on track.


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