British PM, defmin at odds over Afghanistan withdrawal

Britain's foreign minister expects the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan by 2014, earlier than a timeline proposed by the defence minister.

British PM, defmin at odds over Afghanistan withdrawal

 

Britain's foreign minister expects the withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan by 2014, earlier than a timeline proposed by the defence minister, highlighting differences over the increasingly unpopular war.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague appear keen for an earlier exit than Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

About 100 foreign soldiers were killed in June, the highest monthly death toll since the conflict began in 2001.

"We have always said ... that the Afghan forces should be able to conduct their own affairs, should be able to stand up for themselves without other nations having to be alongside them, by 2014," Hague told BBC radio on Thursday.

Fox on Wednesday told a Washington think-tank Britain wanted the Afghans to "assume increasing responsibility" for security within five years.

Britain is the second largest NATO contingent in the United States-led occupation.

Cameron last week reiterated his wish to see British troops withdraw within five years, but his language showed impatience with the costly mission at a time of severe austerity measures to tackle a big budget deficit.

Cameron, who took over as prime minister in a coalition government after an election in May, said Western forces were not seeking a "perfect Afghanistan" and he wanted British troops out by 2015, "make no mistake about it".

But Fox on Wednesday warned against what he said "premature withdrawal", called Cameron's timeline an "aspiration".

British media reports point to tensions between Fox and Cameron. Last month, newspapers said Fox's decision to announce the early retirement of Britain's most senior military officer, Chief of Defence Staff Jock Stirrup, had irritated Cameron.

After a foreign policy speech on Thursday, Hague played down talk of differences over Afghanistan, saying Fox's comments were in line with previous government statements.

Hague is planning to attend an Afghan donor's conference on July 20 in Kabul.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 02 Temmuz 2010, 08:34
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