More than 400 troops heading home from Afghanistan

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The Independent Online

More than 400 troops will be coming home from Afghanistan over the coming nine months, Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs today.

But Mr Cameron indicated that their return did not mark the start of a general withdrawal of UK troops from the country, saying that Britain's "enduring force level" will remain at 9,500.

He dismissed reports that Washington was concerned about reductions in the UK deployment, telling MPs that the US "completely understands" the situation.

Speaking to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, Mr Cameron said: "This year there will be some troops coming home.

"This is not a new announcement in any way - our enduring force level remains at 9,500. But, as you know, our force level has been above that, if you include special forces and some of the extra operations we have undertaken.

"If you look at things like what is happening with the troops that went in to guard the airport at Kandahar and also some people involved in the air bridge and some people involved in the rapid reaction force, there will be around 400 - perhaps slightly more - troops coming out of Afghanistan in the coming year up to February 2012.

"But the enduring force level remains at 9,500."

Mr Cameron added: "I'm sure the Americans completely understand that. It is rather less than the reductions they are planning.

"We remain in the toughest part of the country, doing one of the most difficult jobs. When you go there, one of the first things the Americans say is how much they appreciate the job we are doing."

Mr Cameron has already announced his intention to withdraw UK combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015, after the handover of security responsibilities to home-grown authorities.