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Al Qaida threat to UK 'has fallen'

The threat to Britain from al Qaida terrorists operating out of Afghanistan fell in the past 18 months, David Cameron has said.

But the Prime Minister, who last week made his first visit to the country since taking office, said British and other international forces were still needed to prevent al Qaida making a return.

His latest comments will reinforce the impression that the Government is anxious to start pulling out British troops as soon as possible.

In a Commons statement on his visit, Mr Cameron said he was determined to bring them home "the moment it is safe to do so".

"The Afghan people do not want foreign forces on their soil any longer than is necessary, and the British people are rightly impatient for progress," he said.

Earlier, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said he expected to be able to show "significant progress" by the end of the year in Helmand province where the bulk of the 10,000-strong British force is based.

Mr Cameron cautioned MPs to expect further casualties over the summer months as the "so-called fighting season" against the Taliban resumes.

However, he stressed that their al Qaida allies were now under pressure both in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.

"Eighteen months ago, the then Prime Minister told this House that some three-quarters of the most serious terrorist plots against Britain had links to the border area," he said.

"Today I am advised that the threat from al Qaida from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reduced. But I am also advised that if it were not for the current presence of UK and international coalition forces, al Qaida would return to Afghanistan and the threat to the UK would rise."

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