Britain to pull 800 troops from Afghanistan: report

LONDON Sat Jul 2, 2011 6:41pm EDT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) arrives at the Helmand Police training centre December 6, 2010. REUTERS/Leon Neal/Pool

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (C) arrives at the Helmand Police training centre December 6, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Leon Neal/Pool

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will announce this week that it is to withdraw up to 800 troops by the end of next year, according to a report in the Sunday Times newspaper.

The move comes after last month's announcement that thousands of U.S. troops would start being withdrawn later this year as part of a process of handing security over to Afghan forces.

"UK force levels in Afghanistan are kept under constant review," a Ministry of Defense spokesman said.

"The prime minister (David Cameron) has been clear that there will be no UK troops in combat roles in Afghanistan by 2015 and it is right that we bring troops home sooner where progress allows and taking account of military advice."

The British government announced in May that it would pull about 400 troops from Afghanistan over the following nine months, trimming its force to 9,500.

The Sunday Times said it was expected that Cameron would announce Wednesday a pull-out of between 500 and 800 troops between next February and the end of 2012.

Britain has the second-biggest foreign contingent in Afghanistan, with the majority in the southern Helmand province, one of the most violent areas. So far 374 British service personnel have died in the decade-long war.

Last month, President Barack Obama announced he planned to withdraw 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer. After the withdrawal, about 70,000 U.S. troops will remain in the country.

Cameron said it was significant that only 10,000 of those U.S. soldiers would leave this year, meaning there would be no let-up in the pressure on the Taliban insurgents.

The chief of staff of Germany's armed forces said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday that Germany would reduce its troop levels in Afghanistan by about 500 from the current force of 4,800 at the end of the year.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams)

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