"'The position on combat troops is as the Prime Minister set out last weekend. By the time of the next election, he hopes we won’t still be fighting on the ground. We are working towards the Afghan national security forces being able to stand on their own two feet by 2014,' but there is 'no strict or artificial timetable'. 'Five years is a long way ahead. There is a lot more work to be done.' But he won’t say that the British will leave last. 'We can’t possibly know that at this stage. We are not competing with other countries to get out first.'"