Early troop exit derailed by Karzai's 15-year Nato timeframe

Gordon Brown's attempts to sketch out an exit strategy from Afghanistan ran into trouble when the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, suggested that UK troops may need to remain in his country for another 15 years.

Mr Brown said the process of handing over Afghanistan's 34 provinces to Afghan security forces "will begin later this year". While refusing to give a firm timetable, he hinted at a troop reduction from next year, saying: "By the middle of next year, we have to turn the tide in the fight against the insurgency."

The Prime Minister said the Afghan army would number 171,600 by October next year and its police force 134,000 – providing a 300,000-strong security force that would outnumber the 135,000-strong coalition forces from 43 nations now in the country.

Like Barack Obama in the US, the Prime Minister is keen to reassure a domestic audience before an election this year that the commitment in Afghanistan is not open-ended.

But Mr Brown's optimistic timeline appeared at odds with President Karzai, who suggested that Nato troops would play a crucial role for five years and would need to remain in his country for much longer.

He said: "With regard to training and equipping the Afghan security forces, five to 10 years will be enough. With regard to sustaining them till Afghanistan is financially able to provide for our forces, the time may be extended to 10-15 years."

The communiqué agreed at the London conference last night endorsed the Kabul government's goal for Afghan forces to conduct the majority of operations within three years and take responsibility for physical security within five years. It said handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces in an unspecified number of more peaceful provinces would begin "by late 2010/early 2011," with coalition forces moving to a supporting role.

Kai Eide, the outgoing UN special representative for Afghanistan, warned that there were "serious flaws" in the coalition's strategy. He claimed the recent decision to opt for a troops "surge" risked entrenching the international military presence, putting back their eventual withdrawal.

Mr Eide said there was a danger that the expected offensive against the Taliban in Helmand province, where the main British taskforce is based, would simply lead to more civilian casualties. "There is a danger with the military surge that the military will take on more civilian tasks," he said. "I think that will mean that the military will get more entrenched and it will take longer for us to talk about any kind of meaningful reduction in the troop level."

Pathway to peace? Communique highlights

* Conference participants welcomed the plans of the government of Afghanistan to offer an honourable place in society to those willing to renounce violence, participate in the free and open society and respect the principles that are enshrined in the Afghan constitution, cut ties with al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups, and pursue their political goals peacefully....

* [and the] commitment to reinvigorate Afghan-led reintegration efforts by developing and implementing a... national Peace and Reintegration Programme; plans to convene a Grand Peace Jirga...; and the international community's commitment to establish a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund to finance the Afghan-led Peace and Reintegration Programme.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
News
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
people
News
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - Commercial Vehicles - OTE £40,000

£12000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion and growth of ...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - Sheffield - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer position with a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Leader - Plasma Processing

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Operations Leader is required to join a lea...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders