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Afghan, British Leaders Discuss Security Transition


Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, is met by British Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, March 1, 2011

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, right, is met by British Prime Minister David Cameron as he arrives for a meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, March 1, 2011

Britain is pledging long-term support for Afghanistan, as international troops prepare to begin transferring security responsibility to Afghan forces.

British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in London Tuesday. At a joint press briefing, Mr. Cameron said progress was being made in Afghanistan with the build-up of Afghan forces.

The British leader noted the importance of building on the military campaign by making sure the government carries out wide reform to help sustain Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Cameron also pledged support for the Afghan-led reconciliation and reintegration efforts aimed at insurgents who are willing to renounce al-Qaida and join the political process.

President Karzai said Afghanistan will be a partner with Britain and "not a burden." He said Afghanistan will do its best to utilize British help to provide the Afghan people with a better, peaceful future.

Prime Minister Cameron says he wants British troops out of Afghanistan by 2015. Britain has about 10,000 troops in the country.

On Tuesday, British military officials said a British soldier was shot and killed while on patrol in the Nahr-e Saraj area of southern Helmand province. The death brings to 358 the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

President Karzai paid tribute to sacrifices made by British troops in Afghanistan during Tuesday's press briefing in London.

During his visit, Mr. Karzai will also open an exhibition of Afghan artifacts at London's British Museum. The display, which spans 3,000 years of Afghan history, will feature more than 200 objects from the National Museum of Afghanistan.

The objects survived civil war and Taliban rule in the 1990s.

Separately, NATO says it is investigating allegations its troops killed civilians in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar.

The coalition says militants fired rockets at a NATO base in the Darah-Ye Pech district on Tuesday, slightly wounding a local contractor. NATO says coalition forces returned fire and that nine insurgents were killed.

But Afghan officials say nine children, who were collecting firewood, were killed in a coalition airstrike.

This is the second such probe in Kunar in the last two weeks. Afghan officials say as many as 64 civilians were killed during NATO operations late last month.

And the State Department says the new U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, will travel to Afghanistan and Pakistan this week to meet with government officials. Grossman replaces Richard Holbrooke, who died suddenly late last year.

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