Prime Minister David Cameron has said a further 500 British troops are to be withdrawn from Afghanistan next year.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said British forces in Afghanistan would be reduced from 9,500 to 9,000 by the end of the year.
The decision to withdraw British troops by a further 500 by the end of 2012 has been agreed by the National Security Council on the advice of military commanders. And he added that these reductions reflect the progress that is being made in building up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
The PM said the UK remained committed to the full handover of responsibility for security throughout the country to the Afghan authorities by the end of 2014. Although he stressed that the UK would continue to have a major, strategic relationship with Afghanistan.
This decision is not only right for Britain, it is right for Afghanistan too.
It has given the Afghans a clear deadline against which to plan and has injected a sense of urgency into their efforts.
Mr Cameron, who returned last night from a two-day visit to the country, said operations were now entering a “new phase” with the Afghan forces taking on more of the fighting.
He said the killing of Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden by US special forces had presented the Taliban with “a moment of real choice” to abandon its struggle and join the political process.
We should take this opportunity to send a clear message to the Taliban - now is the time to break decisively from Al Qaeda and to participate in peaceful political process.