Cameron, in Afghanistan, says 2011 troop departure possible

7th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, said Tuesday there was "cautious optimism" that British troops could start withdrawing from next year.

Cameron, speaking to reporters at Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand province, said he believed the 2011 date to begin pulling out troops was feasible.

"I do still think it is possible but obviously we have got to go on making the progress that we are making," he said in a statement released here.

"In terms of the ground being covered, the amount of public being protected, the training of the Afghan National Army that is ahead of schedule, the Helmand police training centre and also the mood of the Paras and Royal Scots that I met -- I think that does give you grounds for cautious optimism that this is going in the right direction."

Cameron left London Sunday for Afghanistan where around 10,000 British troops are stationed. Downing Street gave no date for the end of his visit.

He was accompanied by Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, who had previously ruled out the prospects of a troop withdrawal starting next year.

Asked if he now believed 2011 was realistic, he said: "I do. It is conditions based next year but looking at the progress we have made - I was only here three months ago - it is quite astronomical how quickly things are coming together."

© 2010 AFP

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