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Cameron: Afghan withdrawal to begin soon

Dec. 19, 2012 at 3:29 PM

LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Britain will begin a gradual withdrawal of its forces in Afghanistan in April, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

During question time in Parliament, the prime minister said 3,800 soldiers will return home by the end of 2013, with 5,000 still in the country, The Guardian reported. Most of those will be withdrawn in 2014, and none of the remaining forces will be in a combat role, he said.

Senior commanders in Afghanistan have advised him that Afghan government security forces are more prepared to take over in Helmand province, Cameron said, allowing the troops to "come home in two relatively even steps in 2013 and 2014, leaving probably around 5,200 troops after the end of 2013".

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond gave a somewhat bleaker picture during defense question time, saying that some areas would probably not be under control of the Afghan government.

"It is not a perfect democracy and it never will be," he said.

British officials also urged the Taliban to recognize that "reconciliation is not surrender" and to begin talks with the Afghan government.

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