London: Cash-strapped Britain may speed up
the withdrawal of up to 4,000 of its troops from strife-torn
Afghanistan before the end of 2013 under proposals to be
considered by the cabinet next week, according to a media
report on Friday.
"A sharp acceleration in troop withdrawal is one of three
options to be considered by the prime minister, and is
understood to be favoured by at least two senior members of
the cabinet, who want to cut the costs of the decade-long
military campaign," The Guardian reported.
Prime Minister David Cameron is to hold a meeting of the
National Security Council on Tuesday, the paper said.
Under the proposal, the number of British troops in
Helmand province would be cut from 9,000 to 5,000 during 2013,
and almost the same number would come out the following year
leaving a few hundred in Kabul when NATO ends its combat role
But any plans to speed up the pullout would be in
defiance of NATO commanders leading the International Security
and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul.
A third option to be put before Cameron involves a fudge
of these two positions. This would be likely to see a further
2,500 British troops leave Afghanistan in 2013, bringing the
total to 6,500.
The National Security Council meeting will run through
the different scenarios amid growing international concern
about the future of Afghanistan, with ISAF pushing for
decisions early next year for planning and operational
reasons, the report said.
Earlier this year, US President Barack Obama announced
that 30,000 American troops would leave Afghanistan this year
and next, leaving 68,000 - by far the largest contingent.