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British PM Makes Surprise Visit to Troops in Afghanistan

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meets with British soldiers at Kandahar airfield during a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan, December 20, 2011.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron meets with British soldiers at Kandahar airfield during a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan, December 20, 2011.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed that his country will not extend its military involvement in Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline.

Cameron made his comments Tuesday during a previously unannounced visit to greet British forces in southern Afghanistan. He spoke in Kandahar province after canceling plans to tour neighboring Helmand province because of a dust storm closing the runway.

"But let's be clear. I've said very, very clearly, at the end of 2014 we won't be here in a combat role, or in anything like the numbers we are now. And I think people back at home, but also I think the troops here frankly, need to know that there is an endpoint to this service that they've given, and I think that the right endpoint is the end of 2014," said Cameron.

Britain plans to pull out 500 troops in 2012, but so far Cameron has not announced how many will leave the following year. He did tell reporters, however, that he does not want to see a sharp dropoff in the number of troops from 2013 to 2014.

While on his visit, the British leader also called Afghan President Hamid Karzai and they agreed to meet face-to-face in London early next year.

Karzai urged Pakistan to open up communication with Afghanistan, independent of Kabul's relationship with the United States and Pakistan's arch-rival India. Pakistan has cooled relations with Washington after NATO air strikes killed 24 of its soldiers in November. The U.S. says it was a regrettable mistake.  

A spokesman for President Karzai called for NATO to stop night raids after the coalition said it would continue them despite recent civilian deaths. Civilian deaths have been a major source of tension between the Karzai government and the international coalition in Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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