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British combat troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014: foreign secretary

07-21-2010 15:44 BJT

LONDON, July 20 (Xinhua) -- British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday that the country's combat troops should be out of Afghanistan by 2014.

In a BBC radio interview, Hague said: "We are trying to make sure that the Afghan state can look after itself in the future so that our forces don't have to be here in the long term. We have said we won't be there in five years time with combat troops in combat, but that is not remotely saying we cannot win."

"The Afghan forces are building up their own capacity so that by 2014 they will be able to cope without us. We can get to the state where the Afghan state and the Afghan armed forces can stand up on their own," Hague added.

He said the target was to get to 134,000 Afghan members of the armed forces by this autumn and that target had already been reached.

"More and more we have to encourage the Afghans to have ownership of what's happening in their country and have more and more armed forces," said Hague.

He added: "There is now a large Afghan army which is getting into better shape -- it needs to be much bigger and better yet, but that can be done, I believe in the next four years."

Hague was speaking after a conference in Kabul, the Afghanistan capital, at which Afghan President Hamed Karzai revealed that foreign troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force could be out of Afghanistan by 2014, because Afghan troops would be capable of handling their own security.

Karzai committed himself to this goal.

Hague was also following policy already established by new Prime Minister David Cameron when he spoke at the G8 and G20 summits in Canada late last month. Cameron said that he wanted British combat troops home from Afghanistan within five years.

Britain recently committed a further 300 troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total up to 10,000, the second largest foreign force behind the United States.

A total of 322 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan, with many deaths coming over the past four years since the British moved into the southern Helmand province to take on the Taliban with a force of 3,300 troops.

Editor:Jin Lin |Source: Xinhua

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