London: Britain could start withdrawing
troops from Afghanistan next year, Prime Minister David
Cameron told BBC radio today, following talks with US
President Barack Obama.
Cameron said Britain could begin scaling back its
9,500-strong deployment if local forces could take over
Meanwhile Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg confirmed in
parliament that the government wanted British troops out of a
combat role by 2015, saying that was consistent with goals set
by international powers at yesterday`s Kabul conference.
Obama is planning to reduce US troop levels from July
Asked if Britain could do likewise, Cameron said: "Yes we
can, but it should be based on the conditions on the ground.
"The faster we can transition districts and provinces to
Afghan control, clearly the faster that some forces can be
"I don`t want to raise expectations about that because
that transition should be based on how well the security
situation is progressing.
"We`re not going to be there in five years` time, in
2015, with combat troops or large numbers because I think it`s
important to give people an end date by which we won`t be
continuing in that way.
"But I hope that with the strategy we have -- the
build-up of the Afghan Army, the transitioning of districts of
provinces -- as the President said, it will be possible to
bring some troops home."
At a conference in Kabul yesterday, the international
community endorsed sweeping Afghan government plans to take
responsibility for security by 2014, forge peace to end nine
years of war and take greater control of aid projects.
The majority of Britain`s troops in Afghanistan -- the
second-largest deployment after the United States -- are
battling Taliban insurgents and training local forces in the
violence-wracked southern Helmand Province.
Clegg told the lower House of Commons that their fighting
role would stop within five years.
"Let me be absolutely clear that we will see our troops
withdrawn from Afghanistan from a combat role by 2015. That is
what we are determined to see happen," he said.
Later in the Commons, former foreign secretary David
Miliband, speaking for the opposition Labour party, suggested
there was government "confusion" about the timings, following
announcements by Cameron and different ministers.