Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Next Stage of Afghanistan Withdrawal Revealed
AROUND 3,800 British troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan during 2013, David Cameron announced yesterday. The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the strength of the UK force will be reduced from 9,000 to 5,200 by the end of next year.
The partial withdrawal paves the way for the final removal of the bulk of British personnel from the central Asian country as planned by the end of 2014, said Mr Cameron.
The announcement during the weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions came around half an hour ahead of the quarterly update on the situation in Afghanistan to MPs by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who said the withdrawal will start next April.
Fewer replacements will be sent over in the spring when the six-monthly rotation of British forces goes ahead as scheduled, he told the Commons, and there will be a further reduction in numbers after the summer fighting season, in September or October. Mr Hammond said: "The message is clear. Everybody talks of an increasing confidence, of an increasing competence and an increasing willingness to engage by the Afghan forces, a step change in the level of what they are able to do."
But he said the Afghan forces still needed air cover during operations, while helicopter support to evacuate casualties was also required. …