British FM expects Afghans to take security control by 2014
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday he would be "very surprised" if Afghan forces had not taken control of their own security from international forces by 2014.
But he insisted Britain was not setting a timetable for withdrawing its 9,500 troops from Afghanistan, even after Prime Minister David Cameron said last week he wanted them home before the next election in 2015.
"We are committed to the Afghans being able to conduct their military operations and security and that takes time. But I would be very surprised if that took longer than 2014," Hague told BBC radio.
He argued, however, that Cameron's 2015 date was simply a "hope", saying: "Of course, in the next parliament he would hope -- anyone would hope -- that the British combat troops were coming home.
"But he's also stressed that's not setting a timetable for what happens over the next few years."
Defence Secretary Liam Fox seemed to strike a different tone from Cameron in a speech in Washington on Wednesday, when he said NATO forces must "maintain our resolve, and have the resilience to see the job through."
Britain has lost 309 soldiers in Afghanistan since operations there began in October 2001.
© 2010 AFP