The timetable for a British military withdrawal from Afghanistan could begin as soon as next year according to the prime minister David Cameron.
On the traditional pre-Christmas trip to the country the premier expressed optimism at progress made in training Afghan forces, who will take responsibility for security there once the international force leaves.
Cameron said: “It is, I think, encouraging. Good progress (is) being made. We’ve got to make that progress irreversible. That’s what the next 6 to 12 months are going to be about.”
Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan. At least 346 have died there since 2001.
Cameron has already said he wants the phased UK withdrawal to begin next year. Military commanders have until now played down the possibility saying it would depend on the readiness of Afghan forces to take over.
At their summit in Lisbon last month NATO leaders agreed to the Afghan president’s timetable of a full withdrawal by 2014