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British forces should be out from Afghanistan by 2015: PM

world Updated: Jul 04, 2010 19:16 IST

PTI
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Describing Afghanistan as his "biggest challenge", Prime Minister David Cameron Sunday unveiled his exit strategy from the war-torn nation, saying the British forces should be out from there by 2015.

While the Prime Minister said combat troops should be out by 2015, he said there would continue to be a diplomatic presence in the war-stricken country.

And he said British forces could remain in the region after 2015 to train Afghan police and soldiers.

Speaking to Christina Schmid, whose husband Staff Sergeant Olaf Schmid was killed by a blast last October, he said Afghanistan represented the "biggest challenge" of his job and "the thing I think about the most".

"We've been there since 2001 and in Helmand since 2006," he said. "I've said that by 2015 we shouldn't have our troops there - but we may."

"We'll certainly be there diplomatically, helping with aid. We may even be training their police and soldiers still. But the idea of combat troops after 2015...," he was quoted as saying by Telegraph.

His words come just days after the Government was asked to clarify its position on troop withdrawal amid accusations it had sent out mixed messages.

While Defence Secretary Liam Fox said premature withdrawal of Nato forces would be a "betrayal" of the sacrifices made by British forces, the Prime Minister promised to bring home British forces by the next general election, in 2015.

Downing Street later rejected any suggestion that the two were at odds. Cameron said he had a clear timescale for ending combat operations.

"I do have an end strategy," he said. "It is to train up the Afghan army and police, improve the level of governance and security and come home.

"And that is what the Nato allies are committed to. I don't believe in short-term timetables. But having a big sense that this is something we won't be doing in five years, I think that is right."

During the wide-ranging interview, published in the News of the World, he promised to ensure NHS help was on hand for those wounded in action and to address the issue of post traumatic stress disorder which could hit today's armed forces in the next 30 years.

Schmid, 35, was presented with a George Cross, awarded posthumously to her husband, by the Queen last month.