Defence Secretary: Withdrawal 'a gradual drawdown'

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.