PM to troops: You are the best

David Cameron has written a Christmas message to British troops based in Helmand Province saying "this year you have made us prouder than ever" and that that "you are the best." He has paid a pre-Christmas visit to troops in Afghanistan.

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Labour leader delivers festive thanks to UK troops

Labour leader Ed Miliband sent a Christmas message to members of the Armed Forces, thanking them for their "honour, selflessness and bravery."

This Christmas, I want to take some time to send a special message to every member of our Armed Forces.

I know 2012 has been a particularly challenging year.

And I know also that Christmas is an especially difficult time to be away from home, and that at this time of year, family and friends will be in your thoughts even more than usual.

But wherever you are today – whether in a base in Afghanistan, on a Royal Navy vessel, serving as part of a Royal Air Force operation, or serving at home –you can stand proud.

You are protecting the interests of the people of Britain. You are working for a better future for the people of Afghanistan.

And you can be proud to be part of a long and honourable history of men and women who have served our country with honour, selflessness and bravery.

On behalf of the Labour Party, I want to thank you, wish you well over this Christmas period and send you my best wishes for a happy, safe and successful 2013.

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Prime Minister 'very reassured' after Afghan visit

David Cameron has left Afghanistan after what Number 10 sources said was a "good visit."

Mr Cameron was said to have been "very reassured" about the plans to withdraw British troops from the country.

It is reported he believes the deadline for withdrawal was fixed, but the transition itself was movable. It is expected that it will mostly take place after September.

The Downing Street source said the Government's biggest role now is to improve relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

PM says country is 'prouder than ever' of British troops

David Cameron handwrote a Christmas message to troops in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

The fax to all patrol bases in Helmand province, Afghanistan Credit: ITV News

"To you all. As a country we are always immensely proud of our armed forces, but this year you have made us prouder than ever."

"The professionalism and valour you have shown in Afghanistan has been remarkable and we can see real progress, with the successful handover to Afghan forces well under way."

"We should remember at this time especially all those who have been wounded or paid the ultimate price - and our prayers go out to their families."

"British forces have also served successfully all around the world including tackling the pirate and terrorist threats off the Horn of Africa. Our forces performed magnificently at the Olympic and Paralympic Games - putting a smiling face on the greatest show on Earth (and winning medals too)."

"Your work has kept us safe for another year - and made us proud of what you do. Wherever you are this Christmas: thank you for your service. You are the BEST."

The fax to all patrol bases in Helmand province, Afghanistan Credit: ITV News

PM praises Helmand troops in Christmas message

Prime Minister David Cameron handwrote a Christmas message to all patrol bases in Helmand, praising the troops for their "service" in Afghanistan and thanking them for making the country "prouder than ever." He said:

To you all. As a country we are always immensely proud of our armed forces, but this year you have made us prouder than ever.

The professionalism and valour you have shown in Afghanistan has been remarkable and we can see real progress, with the successful handover to Afghan forces well under way.

We should remember at this time especially all those who have been wounded or paid the ultimate price - and our prayers go out to their families.

British forces have also served successfully all around the world including tackling the pirate and terrorist threats off the Horn of Africa. Our forces performed magnificently at the Olympic and Paralympic Games - putting a smiling face on the greatest show on Earth (and winning medals too).

Your work has kept us safe for another year - and made us proud of what you do. Wherever you are this Christmas: thank you for your service.

You are the BEST.

Army chief: Afghan withdrawal 'consistent with plan'

The head of the Army, General Sir Peter Wall, said the Government's announcement to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2013 is "consistent with the military plan" to finish combat operations. He said:

We will have to see how things play out but it is very much our intention to continue our handover to Afghan security forces who are doing a very good job.

We have every reason to believe that they will continue on that track.

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Helmand chief: 'Afghans working with us are in control'

Brigadier Bob Bruce spoke to reporters in Helmand Province today.

Brigadier Bob Bruce, commander of Task Force Helmand, said the capabilities of Afghan forces have "risen markedly" over the last eight to 12 months.

He told reporters: "The Afghans working with us now really are in control. The insurgency is still there. It's not gone but it doesn't dictate things."

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