Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday announced that Britain planned to withdraw nearly half of its troops from Afghanistan next year, ahead of the final pull-out of all foreign forces in 2014.

He told the Commons that 3,800 troops deployed in Helmand province would be withdrawn by the end of 2013, leaving behind 5,200.

Britain has 9,500 troops but 500 of them are waiting to return home before Christmas.

Mr. Cameron said Britain would “see troops come home in two relatively even steps”, 2013 and 2014. This was due to “the success of our forces and the Afghan national security forces, and the fact that moving from mentoring at a battalion level to mentoring at a brigade level in 2013”, he said. But even after the final withdrawal, a small number would remain “involved in returning equipment and dealing with logistics”. Later, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain had a “long-term” commitment to the people of Afghanistan.

“We have consistently said that there will not be a cliff-edge reduction in troop numbers at the end of 2014. This gradual drawdown is firmly in line with the planning of our ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] partners and the advice of military commanders. U.K. forces will continue to operate alongside their Afghan counterparts, albeit in lower numbers, until our combat operations cease at the end of 2014,” he said.

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