- 11 updates
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 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:
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
David Cameron is expected to make a statement to MPs on Afghanistan later today. ISAF commanders in the country have reportedly been giving optimistic reports of progress by Afghan security forces.
During an hour-long conversation Downing Street says David Cameron also discussed Syria, Iran and the Middle East Peace Process with President Obama:
Latest ITV News reports
A Conservative backbencher has said that the government's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan will be "difficult and dangerous".
ITV News understands that Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan may be speeded up with troop numbers almost halved in the next year.