British forces in Afghanistan past 2014?

Oct. 19, 2011 at 9:39 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Though British combat forces won't be in Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan defense forces will still need support, the British defense minister said.

International forces operating in Afghanistan are looking to a drawdown date in 2014, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he'd like to have his forces in control of security operations.

"This means that British troops will not be in a combat role by 2015, nor deployed in the numbers they are now," British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told members of Parliament. "The Afghan National Security Force will, however, still need support from the international community even after the conclusion of the transition process."

Hammond said there are 169,000 members of the Afghan national army and 134,000 members of the Afghan national police.

He said that, working alongside Afghan security forces, British soldiers have made a tangible impact on insurgent activity in the country. Reconciliation with some insurgent groups, he said, was hampered, however, by last month's assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of a Taliban reconciliation council.

This, said Hammond, shouldn't derail efforts to engage those who are willing to work towards peace in Afghanistan.

"We will continue to support President Karzai's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation and are encouraging engagement to support this from all those in the region, including Pakistan," he added.

Hammond replaced Liam Fox as defense secretary this week. Fox resigned following controversy over dealings with Adam Werritty, a former housemate who served as best man at his wedding.

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