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Our Boys will be home for (next) Christmas

GORDON Brown last night set out detailed plans to start bringing British troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas NEXT YEAR.
His 12-month exit strategy, in the wake of a big Nato push for victory, could see the first soldiers pull out next year — even from parts of deadly Helmand province.
The Prime Minister also signalled he will this week announce he is sending a further 500 British troops to the war zone, taking our total to almost 10,000.
His move comes ahead of President Obama’s announcement on Tuesday that up to 40,000 more US troops are to be deployed, plus another 5,000 from other Nato countries.
Speaking after talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the Commonwealth leaders’ meeting in Trinidad, the PM said Obama’s bid to crush the Taliban will pave the way for Our Boys to come home.
Mr Brown expects Afghan forces to be put in charge of security in several areas next year. That would mean British troops could start pulling back from the front line and fly out.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Ki-moon and other world leaders will visit London on January 28 for a crunch summit on the country’s future. They will be joined by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and foreign secretaries from countries with troops in Afghanistan.
Mr Brown said: “I believe we will be able to set a clear timetable for 2010 and beyond.” Under the PM’s plans:
 Within THREE months of the conference the Afghan government should have identified additional troops to send to Helmand for training. That’s part of a plan to recruit an extra 50,000 to the Afghan army next year.
 Within SIX months there will be a clear plan for police training with a massive crackdown on corruption among local cops.
 Within NINE months President Karzai should have appointed almost 400 district governors.
 Within 12 months 5,000 extra Afghan troops will be trained up to fight in Helmand, with thousands more in other areas, taking their army from 90,000 to 134,000.
Mr Brown said: “I want the London conference to set the conditions needed for district handovers.
“I believe this can begin next year in a number of districts, including one or two in Helmand. I think we need to transfer at least five provinces to lead Afghan control by the end of 2010.”
He added: “My duty to the British people, which is to ensure their security against terrorism, is best discharged by making sure that Afghanistan is increasingly able to run its own affairs — so that it will never again provide space for al-Qaeda.”



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