Peter Hoskin

The Afghan conflict creates other conflicts for Cameron

Another day, yesterday, to remind us of the precariousness of everything in Afghanistan. With David Cameron in the country, it was announced, first, that a British soldier had gone missing from his base; and, then, that the same soldier had been found dead with gunshot wounds. “His exact cause of death is still to be established,” said a spokesman, “and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death are currently under investigation.” His is the 375th British military death in the country since operations began.

And, of course, the politics quiver on in the background. There had been reports at the weekend (£) that up to 800 more British troops could be withdrawn from the country before the end of next year, taking the total combat force below 9,000 for the first time since the surge of 2009. But, today, the generals are claiming to have won concessions from Cameron. The troops will not be pulled out before next autumn, leaving them two more “fighting seasons” in the country. And, when it comes, the initial withdrawal is likely to be of “no more than 500 troops”. The announcement will be made in the Commons tomorrow.

Even a slowed, staggered rate of withdrawal probably won’t be enough to soothe all the differences between No.10 and our fighting men and women. But other plans appear to be afoot. The Telegraph’s James Kirkup reported yesterday that the MoD could be allowed to access Treasury reserve funds for Afghanistan, even as operations wind down. If so, it would help paste across some of the holes and inconsistencies in the department’s budget, as well as please the Foxes of Westminster.

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