David Cameron sends Christmas message praising work of British troops in Afghanistan

The Prime Minister also reminded them of the 'purpose of the NATO mission' to make the country secure

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The Independent Online

David Cameron has sent a Christmas message to British troops serving in Afghanistan, praising their work and reminding them of "the purpose of the mission".

As he spoke of the "extraordinary sacrifices" made by all the UK's armed forces, the Prime Minister also singled out the crew of the HMS Illustrious for recognition. Last month they cancelled their leave in order to sail out and bring aid to those affected by the devastating typhoon in the Philippines.

Appearing in the Sun on Sunday today, Mr Cameron's festive congratulations came in the wake of his controversial comments one week ago that it was "mission accomplished" in Afghanistan.

He said that in his visit to Camp Bastion last week he discovered "just how much the messages of support from home meant" to those serving away from their families over Christmas.

"As we gather with our families this Christmas let's remember the extraordinary sacrifices being made by Britain's armed forces serving our country thousands of miles from home," Mr Cameron wrote.

"The crew of HMS Illustrious who cancelled their Christmas leave to help bring aid to thousands in the Philippines. The British forces supporting the training mission in Mali.

"The Navy personnel tackling pirates off the coast of Somalia and maintaining our nuclear deterrent in the depths of the oceans. And, of course, the many members of our armed forces spending their Christmas serving in Afghanistan."

The Prime Minister reiterated his promise that all combat troops will have been withdrawn from the country by the end of next year.

"Of course, we will not leave behind a perfect country or a perfect democracy," he said. "Afghanistan is an extremely poor country with a very troubled history.

"But we should remember the purpose of the Nato mission. We sent our service men and women to build Afghan security forces that were capable of maintaining a level of security so that Afghanistan could never again become a haven for terrorist training camps. They will achieve that.

"So as we think about our brave armed forces this Christmas, let's take pride in their achievements in Afghanistan. They have helped to rebuild a country and put it on the path towards reconciliation, investment and lasting security.

"Our troops should be very proud of what they have done. And we should be very proud of them."