LONDON: The terrorist threat to Britain from Afghanistan has declined, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, as he promised to withdraw British troops from the country as soon as possible.Mr Cameron made the statement about the al-Qaeda threat as Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, warned that the armed forces face cuts that will be ”ruthless and without sentiment”.Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said the government remained committed to the Afghan mission, but insisted British troops would not stay ”a day longer than is necessary”.Ministers are keen to highlight what they say is the progress being made by the Afghan mission, to present any withdrawal of British troops as a sign of success, not failure.In 2008, former prime minister Gordon Brown told MPs that three-quarters of all terrorist plots being monitored in the UK had a connection to the Afghan-Pakistan border area.On Monday, Mr Cameron said: ”Today, I am advised that the threat from al-Qaeda from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reduced.” Downing Street gave no more detail about the reduced threat, but Mr Cameron’s spokesman said the reduction was ”significant”.The Prime Minister also confirmed that he was following a timetable set down by United States President, Barack Obama, which could see NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan reduced as soon as July 2011.Britain has 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.”I want to bring them home the moment it is safe to do so,” Mr Cameron said.A total of 295 British service personnel have died in Afghanistan since 2001.”We must be ready for further casualties over the summer months,” Mr Cameron said.In his first major speech as Defence Secretary, Dr Fox said the Ministry of Defence needed ”a step change not minor tinkering” after a decade of overspending on equipment.It is expected that the army and Royal Air Force will bear the brunt of personnel cuts.Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, Dr Fox said: ”We must act ruthlessly and without sentiment. It is inevitable that there will be the perception of winners and losers as we go through this process.”Telegraph, London
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