Britain mulls early troop pullout from Afghanistan: report

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Up to 4,000 British troops could leave Afghanistan before the end of 2013 under proposals to be considered by Prime Minister David Cameron next week, a report said Friday.

The Guardian reported that the accelerated pace of troop withdrawal was one of three options to be mulled by Cameron at a meeting of Britain's National Security Council on Tuesday.

The option is understood to be favoured by at least two senior members of the cabinet, who want to slash the costs of the decade-long military campaign, the paper added.

Under current plans, all British combat troops are due to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

But under the new option, the number of British troops in strife-torn Helmand province would be reduced from 9,000 to 5,000 during 2013, and almost the same number would be pulled out the following year, the Guardian said.

The proposal would leave several hundred British troops in Kabul when NATO ends its combat role in 2014.

The British death toll in Afghanistan climbed to 391 on Thursday when a soldier died in hospital in Britain after he was hit by an improvised explosive device -- the name given to roadside bombs laid by the Taliban -- in Helmand.

Britain is the second largest contributor of international troops after the United States to the NATO-led ISAF force.

The Ministry of Defence was not immediately available for comment on the report.

© 2011 AFP

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