In a surprise visit to Afghanistan this morning, British Prime Minister David Cameron conceded that terrorist plots against the UK are still be planned in the country, and that Britain had paid a “very high price” for the war there.
Speaking alongside the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, Cameron pledged that Britain will not send group troops back to Afghanistan because the Afghan army is now capable of looking after itself. He also warned that Britain could spend many more years yet fighting Islamist terror across the world.
The Prime Minister said: “Britain has paid a very high price for our engagement in Afghanistan. We’ve done vital work here, but we should remember those who have paid the ultimate price and been injured from the work they did here.
“When you think about it in very bald, British terms, what is it we have been trying to achieve? That is to deny a safe haven to al-Qaeda.
“This was the place where the 9/11 attacks were plotted from. This was the place where countless attacks were planned. Al-Qaeda and the training camps have been driven out of Afghanistan.
“When I became Prime Minister I think something like nine out ten plots we faced on the streets of Britain came from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area. That is now well down – somewhere below half, from the latest figures I saw.”
Britain’s last soldiers are set leave Afghanistan within the coming weeks, after spending nearly 13 years in the country fighting the Taliban and trying to build a credible central government. The last UK base, Camp Bastion, was handed over to US control recently.
Cameron is first Western leader to meet the new Afghan president since he took office earlier this week. He was elected earlier this year in an election in which 8 million Afghans participated.
Speaking in the garden of the Presidential Palace, Ghani paid tribute to British troops and their families.
“I would like to say thank you to the families for the loss of their loved ones. They stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We will remember them,” he said.