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Afghan President Meets New British PM

  • Tom Rivers

In his first meeting with a foreign leader, Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron has gotten a first hand assessment of the situation in Afghanistan from the country's president, Hamid Karzai. Britain's role in Afghanistan is one of Mr. Cameron's top foreign policy issues.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai joined David Cameron at the prime minister's official country retreat, Chequers.

The discussions came a day after Mr. Karzai wrapped up a four-day, high-profile visit to the United States where he met with President Obama among others.

According to a Downing Street spokesman, Mr. Cameron hoped to further strengthen relations between Britain and Afghanistan. The two men are said to have discussed the prospects for a peace "jirga" or gathering in Afghanistan at the end of the month.

Earlier, Britain's new Foreign Secretary William Hague was interviewed by the BBC. He was in Washington on his first overseas trip since his appointment and it was after he held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Asked if he felt encouraged by recent events in Afghanistan, Mr. Hague said a lot will depend on what happens there in the coming few months. "This is a crucial year as I say. This may be a decisive year in Afghanistan. It is vital that we continue to make the military progress, the security progress on the ground. Progress is being made but now we have to see an effective political process as well and that is what the United States has been working so hard on this week and that is where our efforts in British relations with President Karzai and his government will come in over the coming weeks in a strongly coordinated way," he said.

Britain has around nine-and-a-half thousand troops in Afghanistan, the second largest contingent there behind the United States. Most are based in Helmand province in the south.

251 British soldiers have been killed in the country since their deployment began in 2001.

Over the years, support for the war has fallen in Britain. Foreign Secretary Hague maintains that British troops will only be there for as long as necessary and that means until Afghans can provide their own security.