1. ITV Report

UK troop withdrawal from Afghanistan 'may accelerate'

ITV News understands that Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan may be speeded up with troop numbers almost halved in the next year.

British soldiers cover themselves from dust as a helicopter lands at the Malgeer village in Helmand province Credit: Reuters

During a video call, the Prime Minister and US President Barack Obama agreed the plan for all combat troops to leave by the end of 2014 was "on track". It could mean more opportunities emerge for service personnel to be brought home over the next 12 months.

During an hour-long conversation Downing Street says David Cameron also discussed Syria, Iran and the Middle East Peace Process with President Obama:

On Afghanistan, they discussed progress on the plan to hand security responsibility from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the Afghan National Security Forces, and agreed that the NATO strategy to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 was on track.

This would present further opportunities for ISAF countries to bring troops home next year and they agreed to stay in close touch as detailed plans develop.

They also agreed on joint work to strengthen the political process, particularly supporting Afghanistan and her neighbours to work together for stability, building on the trilateral discussions with Pakistan led by the UK.

– DOWNING STREET STATEMENT

David Cameron is expected to make a statement to MPs on Afghanistan later today. ISAFcommanders in the country have reportedly been giving optimistic reports of progress by Afghan security forces.

David Cameron seen walking through Kandahar Airfield in 2011 Credit: Reuters
  • The UK contingent force is being reduced from 9,500 to 9,000 before this Christmas
  • There is speculation it could be cut to around 5,000 after next Summer
  • The US currently has around 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, after withdrawing around 23,000 this year

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