British PM not targeting 'perfect democracy' in Afghanistan
Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday Britain was "not in Afghanistan to build a perfect democracy," stressing instead the importance of protecting itself from violent extremism.
Cameron added that British troops would "not stay a day longer than we need to" in Afghanistan, and reiterated a pledge that British combat troops would be out of the war-torn country in five years' time.
"We are not in Afghanistan to build a perfect democracy," he told his Conservative party's annual conference in Birmingham, central England.
"No dreamy ideas. Just hard-headed national security -- pure and simple.
"Almost every terrorist who took part in 9/11 was trained by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. If we left tomorrow, those training camps could easily come back because Afghans are not yet ready to take control of their security.
"But we will not stay a day longer than we need to."
A total of 339 British troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
The country has nearly 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the second largest contingent after the United States, with most of them deployed in Helmand, a centre for the Taliban insurgency and for the opium trade.
Earlier Defence Secretary Liam Fox urged patience in Afghanistan and said a premature withdrawal would be "a shot in the arm to violent jihadists everywhere."
"We haven't always had it right in Afghanistan. Mistakes have been made along the way," Fox said. "But we now have the right strategy in place... we now have to be patient and let the strategy run its course."
He also called for "realistic expectations" about what could be achieved there.
Fox added that pulling out too quickly "would send the signal that we did not have the moral resolve and the political fortitude" to follow through on pledges.
© 2010 AFP