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Cameron: Afghan withdrawal to begin soon

Published By United Press International
LONDON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Britain will begin a gradual withdrawal of its forces in Afghanistan in April, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

During question time in Parliament, the prime minister said 3,800 soldiers will return home by the end of 2013, with 5,000 still in the country, The Guardian reported. Most of those will be withdrawn in 2014, and none of the remaining forces will be in a combat role, he said.

Senior commanders in Afghanistan have advised him that Afghan government security forces are more prepared to take over in Helmand province, Cameron said, allowing the troops to "come home in two relatively even steps in 2013 and 2014, leaving probably around 5,200 troops after the end of 2013".

Defense Secretary Philip Hammond gave a somewhat bleaker picture during defense question time, saying that some areas would probably not be under control of the Afghan government.

"It is not a perfect democracy and it never will be," he said.

British officials also urged the Taliban to recognize that "reconciliation is not surrender" and to begin talks with the Afghan government.
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Tour de France concludes in Paris
Race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain (C) stands between second place finisher Christopher Froome of Great Britain (L) and third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali of Italy on the presentation podium following the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on July 22, 2012. Wiggins of Great Britain became that country's first ever overall winner of the Tour de France. UPI/David Silpa