British PM warns of more deaths in Afghanistan

Prime Minister David Cameron warned that more British troops would be killed in Afghanistan.

Last Updated: Jun 14, 2010, 22:15 PM IST

London: Prime Minister David Cameron warned on Monday that more British troops would be killed in Afghanistan,
after his first official trip to the war-stricken country, and
would not give a firm date for a withdrawal.

Cameron said Britain "must be ready for further
casualties over the summer months" and described 2010 as "the
vital one" for overcoming the Taliban.

But while acknowledging pressure for British troops to
come home, he refrained from giving a firm timetable.

"Our forces will not remain in Afghanistan a day longer
than is necessary -- and I want to bring them home the moment
it is safe to do so," he said in a statement to the House of
Commons.

But it was "right not to set an artificial deadline"
which might not then be met, Cameron added, describing
Afghanistan as "this government`s top foreign policy
priority".

The British premier met President Hamid Karzai during
last week`s trip to Afghanistan, when he also ruled out
sending more troops.

A total of 295 British personnel have died in Afghanistan
since operations started in 2001 and there is growing public
pressure for withdrawals. Britain has some 10,000 troops
there.

Cameron said he wanted to make sure that the contracting
policy of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan "does not help
fund local militias or, even worse, the insurgents".

The premier`s comments on deployments were echoed by
Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who stressed that the Afghanistan
conflict would take time to resolve.

"This is no time for us to lose our nerve and we must
find the language to persuade the British people to stick with
us," he said in a speech in London.

"We cannot allow Afghanistan to be used again as a haven
for terrorism."

Fox added that "by the end of the year, I expect that we
will be able to show significant progress" through accelerated
training of Afghan troops and consolidated progress in Helmand
province, where much of the worst fighting has taken place.

Cameron`s coalition government only took power last month
after former premier Gordon Brown`s Labour was defeated in a
general election.

It was announced yesterday that the head of the military,
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, was to quit earlier than
expected but claims that this was because he had not done
enough to support troops in Afghanistan have been denied.

PTI