London: British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the country’s troops have paid a ‘very heavy price’ fighting the Taliban, but Afghanistan remains ‘a deeply challenged country’.
“We have paid a very heavy price but I think the reason for coming here in the first place, which was to stop Afghanistan becoming a haven for terror ... I think it was the right decision,” Cameron said.
He insisted British and coalition military action had made Afghanistan safer and less able to harbour terrorists.
Paying a secret visit to troops in Helmand, where he attended the Royal Marines’ carol service, Cameron acknowledged the scale of the task facing Afghans as coalition forces withdraw.
On Wednesday, he announced that 3,800 of the 9,000 British troops in Afghanistan would return home by the end of next year.
According to the Telegraph, Cameron flew secretly to Afghanistan on Thursday to meet troops at Camp Price, a forward base, 20 miles east of Camp Bastion, Britain’s operational HQ.
Speaking to reporters during the day, Cameron said he believed Afghan forces were acquiring the ‘capability’ to control the country.
He conceded that Afghanistan was still a “deeply challenged country”, adding that it was still “a far better place” than when the campaign began in 2001.
The Prime Minister disclosed that he was seeing fewer terrorist threats crossing his desk from the region than in previous years.
“Far fewer come from this part of the world than was the case when we first came to Afghanistan,” he said.
The Afghan forces were doing “better than expected,” he said, enabling British troops to come home.
“This is withdrawal, this is draw-down based on success, not on failure. We are confident it can be done while making sure Afghanistan does not return to become a haven of terrorism, which is why we came here in the first place,” he added.