Britain's Cameron pays surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan
updated 10:35 PM EST, Thu December 20, 2012
British Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan, Thursday.
- Prime Minister David Cameron thanks the troops: "You make our country proud"
- His surprise visit comes after announcing reduction from 9,500 to 5,200 troops by end of 2013
- Britain has lost 438 troops since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001
(CNN) -- British Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan Thursday, a day after he announced a significant drawdown of UK forces there.
"Thank you for what you've done. You make our country proud," Cameron told the troops, according to the official Twitter account for his office at No. 10 Downing Street.
Cameron said Wednesday that UK troop numbers will decrease to about 5,200 by the end of 2013. The country currently has around 9,500 military personnel in Afghanistan, 500 of which will be leaving by the end of this year.
Meet Afghanistan's future
Afghans: 'We don't need the Americans'
11 years of war: Was it worth it?
A special message from home
Read more: Karzai welcomes UK troop withdrawal plan
The accelerated withdrawal is due to progress in the southern province of Helmand, where Afghan forces are now taking a lead security role, British officials say.
"We came to Afghanistan to help this country stop being a haven of terror, but we've always wanted this country to be able to police itself, with its own army and its own police force," Cameron said during his visit. "We're successfully training them up so we're able to bring our troops back home."
Cameron said the withdrawal is "based on success, not based on failure."
France pulled its last combat units from Afghanistan over the weekend. About 1,500 French troops will remain the country through next year to remove equipment and help train Afghan forces, a French Defense Ministry spokesman said.
Britain is the second-largest contributor of troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, with the majority of its personnel operating in Helmand.
Since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001, Britain has lost 438 troops, the highest of any coalition member behind the United States.
The United States, whose troops make up the bulk of the force, has lost 2,162 troops in the NATO mission. Some 68,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.
Coalition forces are working to get Afghan security forces ready to take charge of security after the NATO mission in Afghanistan concludes at the end of 2014.
Read more: Land mine kills 10 girls collecting firewood in Afghanistan
CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.