Soldier death brings 2011 British toll in Afghanistan to 46

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A British soldier has been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said Saturday, taking the 2011 death toll for British troops there to 46.

The death on Friday means that 350 British troops have now been killed since operations began in 2001. The overall toll now stands at 394.

The British government wants all Britain's troops out of a combat role in Afghanistan in three years' time, by the end of 2014.

"It is with great sadness that the Ministry of Defence must announce the death of a soldier from 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment on 30th December 2011 in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand Province," a statement said.

Britain's 9,500 troops in Afghanistan are based in the central belt of the restive southern province, where they are fighting Taliban insurgents and training local security forces.

2011 was the fourth-worst year for British troop fatalities in Afghanistan, but the toll was less than half that of 2010, when 103 died.

Some 108 lost their lives in 2009, while 51 died in 2008.

Britain is the second-largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force after the United States.

Britain intends to pull out all its combat troops by 2015, starting with 500 troops in 2012. Cameron has indicated more could be withdrawn in 2013 to avoid a sharp pull-out in come the cut-off date.

"I don't want to see some massive cliff-edge in 2014 -- I don't think that's practical," he said on a visit to Afghanistan in December.

"I'm absolutely clear that the British public deserve to know there is an endpoint to our involvement in Afghanistan and that endpoint is 2014," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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