Britain wants to speed up Afghan pullout

May 22, 2010 at 10:27 AM
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LONDON, May 22 (UPI) -- Britain wants to accelerate the withdrawal of thousands of its troops from Afghanistan, a top official told The Times in London.

New Defense Secretary Liam Fox, scheduled to visit the country this weekend, said Britain is not a "global policeman," adding that the Afghan mission was about keeping terror at bay from Britain, not ensuring that Afghan girls can go to school, The Times reported.

The new tack is a departure from the policy of the Labor government, defeated in recent elections.

On another front, the newspaper said Fox refused to rule out military action against Iran. "If Iran gets a nuclear weapon you are likely to see Saudi (Arabia), Egypt and other countries follow suit and we will bequeath to the next generation a nuclear arms race in the world's most unstable region," Fox told The Times.

In an interview, Fox indicated he plans to use the Afghan trip to explore ways to speed up the departure of the 10,000 British troops in the country. "We have to reset expectations and time lines," Fox told The Times. "National security is the focus now. We are not a global policeman. We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country. We are there so the people of Britain and our global interests are not threatened."

His comments came as the Ministry of Defense announced 8,000 troops in southern Afghanistan would be placed under U.S. control. The Times said that emphasizes Britain's reduced role.

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