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Karzai thanks Britain for sacrifice

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has thanked the British people for the sacrifices they have made for the benefit of his nation.

He was speaking after bilateral talks at Chequers with Prime Minister David Cameron.

President Karzai said Britain had been Afghanistan's "steadfast friend" over the last decade. The Afghan people "appreciate" the "sacrifices" that have been made, he added.

"May I convey to the people of Britain the gratitude of the Afghan people for all that Britain has offered Afghanistan, for having been ready to sacrifice, and having been ready to share, hard earned taxpayers' money with Afghanistan for the benefit of the Afghan life."

Mr Cameron said Britain "has paid a heavy price" for fighting insurgency but insisted progress was being made. He paid tribute to the latest British casualty in Afghanistan, a soldier from the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, and said his thoughts were with the man's family.

A total of 397 British forces personnel or MoD civilians have died while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.

Mr Cameron said there will be "opportunities" in all countries for early troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and reaffirmed his desire for there not to be a "cliff edge" in 2014, when combat forces are due to exit.

But, in an apparent swipe at French President Nicolas Sarkozy - who has announced early French troop withdrawal - he said the decision should be based on Afghan progress in all Nato states.

Mr Cameron said: "Obviously, between now and 2014 there will be opportunities for different countries to reduce their troop numbers. Britain has reduced our troop numbers over the last year.

"I don't want to see some sort of cliff edge in 2014 when all of the remaining troops come out at once but clearly, between now and 2014, the rate at which we can reduce our troops will depend on the transition to Afghan control in the different parts of Afghanistan and that should be the same for all of the members of Nato who are all contributing and helping to a strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan, which is in all our interests."


From Belfast Telegraph