Controversy over BBC story:  British may be ‘among last’ to leave Afghanistan


From Mark Mardell, BBC:  The UK defence secretary Dr Liam Fox who is in Washington has hinted that British troops may be among the very last to get out of Afghanistan.

You can read his speech to the Heritage Foundation about the alliance with the US and the need for "strategic patience".

He told me British troops were fighting in one of the hardest parts of the country and the bottom line is "the likelihood is that it will be one of the last parts to transition over to Afghan charge".

"The mission in Helmand is one of the most difficult ones and I imagine one of the last places they will be able to transition from," he added.

Update from Mark Mardell, BBC (includes video interview):  In the interests of fair dealing, I have to say the UK Ministry of Defence disputes my suggestion that British troops will be among the last to leave Afghanistan. They say that what Dr Liam Fox meant was that Nato allies should come to Helmand province and help the British fight.

What the UK defence secretary actually said was:

"The bottom line is that, because we are in one of the most difficult parts of Afghanistan, and sometimes I think we think that is the only part of Afghanistan, the likelihood is that will be one of the last parts to transition over to Afghan security charge, and I think that we, together with the Americans, need to ensure that we have done what we have done already, is to have a fully integrated mission and part of a genuine coalition."

My source’s interpretation of the latter half of this sentence is that we all should be the last to leave. There is no suggestion that the UK should go, to be completely replaced by US or other Nato forces.  (photo: Reuters)

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