Time for troops to come home, says Cameron

Britain has accomplished its mission in Afghanistan and it is time for the troops to come home, David Cameron has said during a Christmas visit to the military in Helmand province.

David Cameron with footballer Michael Owen as they visit British soldiers at Camp Bastion

The Prime Minister was insistent that no UK combat troops will be based in the nation by the end of next year, even if there is a rise in insurgency.

Senior military figures are braced for increased activity as more troops pull out and expect elections being staged next year to be a particular focus for insurgent groups.

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During a tour of Camp Bastion, likely to be his last for a seasonal meet-and-greet with troops on the ground, he said Britain had more than played its part in Afghanistan.

Asked by reporters if the troops come home with “mission accomplished”, the Prime Minister said: “Yes, I think they do. I think they can come home with their heads held high.”

Mr Cameron was joined in his visit to Afghanistan by Michael Owen, who said that a football match between England and Afghanistan at Wembley stadium would be a “fantastic” way to mark the end of Britain’s Afghan combat role.

The former England striker said the Afghan team, which recently won the South Asia Cup, was “pretty good” and backed the idea of the “fully-fledged” match between the two nations.

It swiftly won support from the Prime Minister who said it was an “excellent idea”.

“I’m sure that there will be many very dignified national events that should take place,” the Prime Minister said.

“We can talk about that and discuss about that in the future but the idea of one part of it being a football match, I think, is a very nice idea and I’m very grateful to the football players for making the effort to come out and play the game today.”

Owen flew into Afghanistan with the Prime Minister to launch a new UK-Afghan football partnership to boost the game by developing the league system. Referees are also being trained up under a premier skills campaign.

Asked if a match would be a nice way to mark the troop drawdown, he said: “Wouldn’t it just? Yes, it would be fantastic.

“In the association the Afghan FA have with ours, I think there’s the opportunity for them to come over and train at our national centre, St George’s Park, and who knows, there could be a fully-fledged game at Wembley one day. That would be fantastic to mark the occasion.”