Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy has responded to government plans to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan, telling the Commons that there were "immense challenges" to overcome.
Mr Murphy said: "We want to see troop withdrawal and we welcome today's announcement. As we enter the 12th and penultimate year of UK combat operations in this bloody but unavoidable conflict, there will be rightly be lessons and consequences from Afghanistan.
"We need to get this right. This is our fourth conflict in Afghanistan and we have no intention of there being a fifth."
Prime Minister David Cameron outlined the Government's plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan after 2014, but the plans to scale down troop numbers, and make those plans public, have been criticised. Former Army Officer and Conservative MP Patrick Mercer said:
"One thing you don't do, is announce for political reasons, what you are up to militarily, that is dangerous."
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond addressed the House of Commons to announce the Government's plans for a 'gradual drawdown' in UK troops in Afghanistan.
He said the phased process of transition from ISAF troops to the Afghan army was making real progress, and he expected the army to assume full responsibly for the country by 201:
The real progress being made on the ground in Helmand Province will allow us, on current planning, to reduce British troops to around 5,200 by the end of 2013.
This is a direct result of the success of the Afghan national security forces in assuming a lead role in delivering security for the Afghan people. The phased process of transition of security responsibility agreed at the Lisbon Summit is well advanced and on track.
We have consistently said that there will not be a cliff-edge reduction in troop numbers at the end of 2014.
This gradual drawdown is firmly in line with the planning of our ISAF partners and the advice of military commanders. UK forces will continue to operate alongside their Afghan counterparts, albeit in lower numbers, until our combat operations cease at the end of 2014.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the real progress being made in Helmand Province will "allow us to reduce British troops to 5,200 by end of 2013."
Mr Hammond said:
There will not be a cliff edge reduction in troop numbers at the end of 2014. This gradual drawdown in line with ISAF planning.
Prime Minister David Cameron says nearly 4,000 troops will come home from Afghanistan by 2013, leaving 5,200.
This means that 3,800 troops will pull out of Afghanistan after next summer, that is 4,300 fewer than the peak for the last few summers.
The Prime Minister said there should be two "fairly even withdrawal steps" of troops from Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014.
The Prime Minister said there would be 5,200 troops remaining in Afghanistan by the end of 2013. Post 2014, the Mr Cameron said "we have not made any exact decisions yet" but said his focus was on ensuring a stable future for the country.
Earlier today Mr Cameron spoke to Afghan President Karzai on the phone. He told MPs in the House of Commons:
After December 2014, we will not be leaving Afghanistan, we have pledged to help the people of Afghanistan. The thing we are most focused on is bringing Pakistan and Agfhanistan together to discuss their future, and I spoke to President Karzai earlier today.
The British military deployment in Afghanistan will be reduced from 9,000 to 5,200 by the end of 2013, David Cameron has told the House of Commons.
- 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