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David Cameron has travelled to Helmand province in Afghanistan to talk to troops and find out more about the transfer of security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Mr Cameron began his trip with a tour of Camp Bastion, the UK’s largest base in Afghanistan, before he visited front line troops from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment at their Shawqat base in Nad ‘Ali. He later saw a provincial reconstruction team in Lashkar Gah.
Asked about major reductions in troop numbers, the Prime Minister said it had been a difficult decision to make but insisted the coalition needed a Defence Budget which made sense.
Discussing the withdrawal of British troops, Mr Cameron said:
What I will commit to is that we will do this in a sensible, ordered, practical way - 9,500 to 9,000 this year. As Afghan troops take a bigger role we will be able to reduce troop numbers further next year.
I don’t want to see some cliff-edge. I’m confident we are going to have a staged reduction and deliver a safe and secure situation.
I’m very pleased to be here because I want to thank our Armed Forces for all the incredible work that they do.
In a visit to the headquarters of Task Force Helmand in Lashkar Gah, Mr Cameron also asked troops about the protection new vehicles are offering from roadside bombs.
He asked asked Lance Corporal Simon Howells, 28, of the Welsh Guards:
Do you feel now that if you did roll over an IED, the vehicle would be more robust?
Lance Corporal Howells told the Prime Minister:
It feels pretty safe.
Sergeant Neville Haye, 36, of the King’s Royal Hussars, told Mr Cameron that Afghan soldiers had learned ‘professionalism’ from their British colleagues. Sergeant Haye said:
They are very capable; we are working with them on a daily basis, shoulder-to-shoulder.
They are starting to do their own operations; we are taking a back seat, staying back and offering them tactical help and advising them.
Today, Mr Cameron has travelled north to Kabul where he will hold talks with both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.
He will also sign a deal to build an officer’s training academy modelled on Sandhurst.
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Published: 19 July 2012
From: Ministry of Defence