Britain's Cameron pays surprise visit to troops in Afghanistan

British Prime Minister David Cameron made a surprise visit to the troops in Afghanistan, Thursday.

Story highlights

  • 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

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.

Read more: Karzai welcomes UK troop withdrawal plan

Meet Afghanistan's future

    Just Watched

    Meet Afghanistan's future

Meet Afghanistan's future 02:17
PLAY VIDEO
Afghans: 'We don't need the Americans'

    Just Watched

    Afghans: 'We don't need the Americans'

Afghans: 'We don't need the Americans' 04:14
PLAY VIDEO
11 years of war: Was it worth it?

    Just Watched

    11 years of war: Was it worth it?

11 years of war: Was it worth it? 01:47
PLAY VIDEO
A special message from home

    Just Watched

    A special message from home

A special message from home 02:36
PLAY VIDEO

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 Recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      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.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      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.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      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.