Afghan troop withdrawal could be faster, says Cameron


The BBC's James Landale asked David Cameron why only some of the UK's troops would be returning home

UK troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan more quickly than previously announced, David Cameron has suggested.

The prime minister announced this week that numbers would be cut from 9,000 to 5,200 next year.

But, on a pre-Christmas visit to Camp Bastion in Helmand province, he said there was "flexibility" in the plan.

There had been better-than-expected progress in training the country's own security, Mr Cameron added.

On Wednesday, the prime minister announced cuts in troop numbers serving in Afghanistan as part of the plan to end combat operations in 2014.

But he told reporters at Camp Bastion: "Of course there is always flexibility in any plan."

'Haven of terrorism'

During the visit he acknowledged that troops had paid a "high price" but said their efforts had been worthwhile.

More than 400 UK personnel have died since the operation in Afghanistan began in 2001 but the military presence has cut the number of terrorist plots, Mr Cameron said.

During his trip, he played table football and attended a carol service.

On his traditional seasonal visit to troops, Mr Cameron toured Camp Bastion and was taken by helicopter to the smaller Camp Price operating base about 20 miles (32km) away.

David Cameron plays table football with Royal Marines at Forward Operating Base Price David Cameron plays table football with Royal Marines at Forward Operating Base Price

All Nato operations are due to finish by the end of 2014, with responsibility being transferred to Afghan forces.

Mr Cameron suggested the Afghans were acquiring the "capability" to take charge of security.

"This is withdrawal. This is drawdown based on success not on failure," he said.

"We're confident it can be done while making sure Afghanistan does not return to become a haven of terrorism, which is of course why we came here in the first place."

He added: "We have paid a very heavy price but I think the reason for coming here in the first place, which was to stop Afghanistan being a haven for terror... I think it was the right decision."

Troop numbers are already being reduced from 9,500 to 9,000 before Christmas.

A small number of British troops would remain in the country beyond that, working at an officer training academy and "involved in returning equipment and dealing with logistics", Mr Cameron told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

But during his visit to Afghanistan, government officials promised an extra £230m from Treasury reserves would be spent on military kit to see the campaign through.

The funding includes £29m for additional bomb detectors; a £10m upgrade for armed vehicles; more military dogs for foot patrols and £5m to boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Camp Bastion.

BBC deputy political editor James Landale, travelling with the prime minister, said the aim of the visit was to give troops some sense of reassurance about their role.

Commanders do not want to leave Afghanistan before the "job is done", he added.

With the insurgency pushed out to the edges of society, and the Afghan army and police improving, there was a growing sense of optimism in the country, commanders had told him.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    The government is in a huge programme of cutting government spending.

    No doubt many troops will return home to find the Army downsizing with P45s arriving on their door mats soon after.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    No matter what Cameron says it was a mistake to go in there. Our Lads and Lasses have paid a very heavy price for the errors of Blair/Brown/Cameron. Those are the people that should be given a weapon and put on the front line.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Few comments about Afghan heroin.
    Heroin comes from Opium, Opium comes from poppies. The same poppies that produce the same Opium that is refined into morphine.
    Maybe a treaty to obtain the medical worlds requirement of Opium from Afghan, it might reduce the amount of heroin on the streets.The country would then have a produce to trade with the world, and maybe, they would toe the line.
    just maybe

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    we shouldn’t be too hasty in the withdrawal of our troops. The Taliban are still a strong force and they would inevitably take over the country if the allied forces left too soon. If that were to happen our men and women would have died for nothing. We need to see the job through to completion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    400 dead in 11 years. If only the Afghan civilians were able to boast such optimistic figures.

    Oh well, at least with the power vacuum and unstable poltical field we're running away from we'll have someone to sell weapons to in year or two.

    If you don't want to take responsibility, don't get involved. Is the lesson here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    It gives me great pleasure to hear our troops are going to be coming home sooner rather than later.

    I am saddened by the thought that shortly after returning home, many are going to be facing redundancy, due to aggressive government cuts.

    At least we are all in it together!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Arguments over whether we should have been there in the first place aside, the current situation is the best outcome that could realistically have been hoped for. Civil war will follow, potentially for decades, but the Afghan people are now in a position to self determine.

    I don't remember such loud condemnation of the initial mission in the context of the 9/11 hysteria

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Our troops in Afghanistan have been doing sterling work against the Taliban and we are long past the question of whether they should have gone there or not.

    Currently they keep the Taliban at bay but at high personal cost.

    This has created a situation where probably never will be a right time to leave but we cannot afford the personal cost of remaining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    There are dark forces at work in this world. They view war like a classic pop song - a guaranteed money maker. Wars are just cover versions.
    Expect more wars, more death, more suffering - and more massive financial rewards to more people like Cheney and Blair who help facilitate them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    the crooked media is also responsible for exaggerating this so called "war of terror". why do you never hear the soldiers who have committed suicides? more soldiers have committed suicides than killed in action.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    The invasion of Afghanistan was a pointless knee jerk reaction to the attacks on the USA in 2001. The aim of stopping terrorism was absurd, any fool knows you can't stop terrorism by invading and occupying territory - terrorism is about ideology and motivation. Intelligence and Police work can do something, Armed force just makes it worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    There is more to this. Cameron will need the Army at home to keep the peace/help the injured/put out fires after he has finished making mincemeat of the public services to line his wallet, and those of his cronies. A pity they aren't qualified teachers either, or he could knock them on the head as well!

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.


    That's three raised hands from me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Perhaps the main reason for continued deaths there is our continued presence. It's not worth a single drop of our soldiers' blood - we want nothing from Afghanistan & they want nothing from us. So, let's bring all our troops home now, weep for the brave men & women who died & never do anything as foolish as this again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    It makes complete sense to bring the troops home as judging by many contributions to this web site we shall soon need the army to counter the coming revolution. Only kidding......

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Over 430 British families will be forever without a loved one and over 250 will be caring for severly injured soldiers. Many more will have psychological problems. Pulling the troops will stop these numbers increasing but we have failed our soliders and their families so many times after previous wars, we must not fail them again now. The tragedy is the Afghan people will continue to suffer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Maggie had her pointless war in the Falklands,Blair lied to have his war.
    Cameron, needs to get us out of this one so he can start his war before the next election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    There had been better-than-expected progress in training the country's own security, Mr Cameron added.

    That statement is entirely incompatible with the attrocious increase in green on blue attacks.

    How can Cameron or anyone judge progress when they do not know how many Taliban/Al Queda have infiltrated Afgan forces.

    I am sure Taliban infiltrators will put British training to use

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Since this has been called a success does that mean someone can translate why we went there I'm still confused;
    Regime change? Illegal
    Stop bin what’s-his-name? Found cowering in different country
    Give woman rights? They can go to school ... sometimes
    Make us safer? Yea right we can't even depot a known terrorist from here at least if they are there they are not here

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Anyone who does not support troops going there in the first place, raise your hand.

    Anyone who thinks the troops could have been back many months by now, raise your hands.

    Anyone who will join me in congratulating the troops and wishing them luck, raise your hands.


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