David Cameron tells Nato UK 'won't desert Afghans'
- 21 May 2012
- From the section UK
David Cameron has said Britain will "not desert the people of Afghanistan" when forces end combat there in 2014.
Speaking at a Nato summit in Chicago, Mr Cameron confirmed the 2014 deadline for UK troop withdrawal and said security would be handed to Afghan forces "by the middle of 2013".
The prime minister said the Taliban had been defeated and urged insurgents to negotiate with the Afghan government.
He also warned "not enough" had been done to resolve the eurozone crisis.
Mr Cameron paid tribute to British combat troops, insisting that forces would make an "enduring commitment to Afghanistan".
"The message to the Afghan people is that we will not desert them," he said.
Mr Cameron said Nato's role would now turn to "training, advising and assisting" Afghan security forces but he warned that the Taliban had been "defeated everywhere they'd appeared on the battlefield", and insisted there would be no let-up in the military pressure when Afghan troops took over security.
"The message to the insurgency is equally clear", he said: "You can't win on the battlefield - stop fighting and start talking."
Speaking about the future of Nato itself, the prime minister praised its work but said it needed a "new mindset" in order to modernise and prioritise for new threats.
"It is the bedrock of our defence, it's vital to Britain's national security, and the decisions we've made today I believe will ensure that remains the case."
'Build a firewall'
Mr Cameron denied he had inflamed the eurozone crisis with earlier comments, arguing that "staying silent on the problems would actually be more dangerous than speaking out".
He said: "I think while I would commend what has happened in the eurozone in terms of many of the steps they've taken to make their economies more competitive, to address some of the problems, to try and build a firewall, to go through proper exercises of recapitalising the banks, the truth is that we still haven't done enough to decisively resolve the crisis."
In recent days, Mr Cameron has warned of the potential break-up of the euro, arguing that Greece would be choosing to stay in or leave the single currency in its upcoming elections.
He also told European leaders to build up contingency plans for Greece's exit.
But Mr Cameron defended his comments, insisting that "what happens in the eurozone matters to the United Kingdom... we need these issues to be resolved."
Asked about the security of Spanish banks and whether he could assure Santander's UK account holders that their holdings would be safe, he insisted that British banks were "well regulated and well capitalised".
He also said he would be meeting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to discuss a variety of issues, including the eurozone crisis.
On 17 May, ratings agency Moody's downgraded the long-term debt and deposit ratings of 16 Spanish banks, including Santander UK, raising concerns that British savers would be badly hit.
Apart from frustration over the eurozone, Mr Cameron expressed disappointment that no agreement had been reached between President Obama and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to reopen supply routes into Afghanistan - which were closed following a US drone strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
"We have to understand the difficult politics and political situation in Pakistan," he said.
But he added he was confident the issue would eventually be resolved: "In spite of the occasional frustrations we have to stick with that relationship and I believe it will deliver."