LONDON, April 26 (UPI) -- The British defense secretary said Thursday the majority of the 500 troops leaving Afghanistan by the end of the year will be combat forces.
British Prime Minister David Cameron last year announced 500 soldiers would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of 2012. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told the House of Commons that most of those forces would be combat troops.
"The ever greater ability of the Afghans to manage their own security is allowing a gradual and deliberate drawdown of U.K. and International Security Assistance Forces," he said.
International forces are to leave Afghanistan by 2014 as Afghan forces assume more responsibility over security operations in the country.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a written statement to Parliament, said nine service personnel died in Afghanistan last month.
"However, we must not allow these (deaths) to cloud the real and tangible progress being made," he said. "Reported year-on-year violence levels are down, the Afghans are increasingly taking the lead on security operations and the insurgency remains under pressure."
A think tank in Kabul said international forces were issuing misleading statements about Afghan-led operations.
The departure of 500 British forces by the end of the year will bring the country's conventional force levels to 9,000.