Afghanistan exit 'could be accelerated'

Britain's withdrawal from Afghanistan could be speeded up amid optimism among commanders that local forces are taking on combat roles faster than anticipated, it was reported last night.

Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said in an interview that British thinking was changing because of the speed with which Afghan forces have been extending their responsibilities.

The move means, he told The Guardian, that there is "a bit of a rethinking going on about how many troops we do actually need". British forces are due to leave Afghanistan by 2014 but more of them could now leave early, he said.