The final decision on a further speedup of the British withdrawal from occupied Afghanistan will have to wait until December, but Defense Secretary Philip Hammond today reported that he plans to withdraw 4,500 troops, half of the forces left in the country, in 2013.
The initial plan for Britain was to forestall any further pullouts until the beginning of 2014, removing the rest of the troops by the end of that year. There has been growing pressure, however, to speed that up.
Indeed, even this move is likely to spur even more pressure for a December decision to speed not just the beginning of the “final drawdown” but also its end, with Chancellor George Osborne suggesting at a recent meeting that he believes an immediate, full withdrawal should be considered.
Britain is one of several NATO member nations committed to leaving by the end of 2014. The United States has a deal with the Karzai government agreeing to stay through at least the end of 2024.
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