IAEA plans to visit Tehran for nuke talks
AMSTERDAM - The Associated PressBritain favors cutting back its troop numbers in Afghanistan progressively until 2014, when most foreign combat forces are due to pull out, Prime Minister David Cameron indicated on Dec. 20.
Western countries plan to remove most combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, but Britain, like the U.S., has not yet set out troop reduction plans beyond 2012. “It is an ongoing conversation between allies ... about how exactly transition is progressing and what is the right way to reduce troop numbers effectively between 2012 and 2014,” Cameron told reporters at the NATO base at Kandahar. “I don’t want to see some massive cliff edge in 2014,” he said, meaning a very sharp drop in troop numbers. “But I don’t think we need to make hard and fast decisions right now about precise numbers.” The prime minister has committed Britain to pulling out 500 soldiers next year, cutting its contingent to 9,000, before a complete withdrawal in three years’ time. “I am absolutely clear the British public deserves to know there is an end point to combat operations and that end point is the end of 2014,” he said. Officials say the government is looking at various options to reduce troop numbers. One recent report in the Guardian newspaper set out three options: to cut 4,000 troops in 2013, to cut 2,500, or to freeze troop numbers until the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, NATO says five service members have died yesterday when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan. The statement did not provide any details about the nationalities of the troops. This year, 532 service members have been killed in Afghanistan.