PM reaffirms Afghan pull-out date
David Cameron has reaffirmed plans to withdraw British troops from Afghanistan amid fresh warnings the country could re-emerge as a terrorist haven once international forces have gone.
Attending the Nato summit in Chicago, the Prime Minister confirmed British troops - like other international forces - will end their combat role by the end of 2014.
"That is our deadline," he said.
Despite the international pull-out, he insisted the Taliban could not regain power by force of arms and he urged them to re-open negotiations with the government of President Hamid Karzai.
"The message to the insurgency is equally clear: you can't win on the battlefield; stop fighting and start talking," he said.
However senior officials acknowledged there was no guarantee that terrorists would not be able to re-establish a foothold in the country from which Osama bin Laden launched the 9/11 attacks.
"It is unrealistic to assume that Afghanistan is going to be completely secure and there is no possibility of a terrorist threat reemerging," said one official.
"But our achievements of the last decade mean that we will withdraw from a country where the threat is much reduced and where Afghan forces are now much more able to respond to that threat."
Officials have already raised the prospect that a small number of British troops - almost certainly special forces - could stay on in a counter-terrorism role after 2014.
Previously ministers have said any remaining British troops would be involved solely in the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Security Forces.