Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to British and American troops at Camp Bastion, outside Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand province.

David Cameron was warned by MPs yesterday that any premature withdrawal from Afghanistan could imperil the soldiers left behind.

The Commons Defence Committee said pulling out more than a few hundred troops could weaken remaining forces.

Troop numbers are expected to be cut by 500 to 9 000 by September next year.

The committee warned: “A more significant drawdown, however, would have to involve a complete battle group. Weakening any battle group to withdraw numbers would be a dangerous move.

“It is important that the Government’s clear determination to withdraw combat forces should not undermine the military strategy by causing the Afghan population to fear that the international coalition might abandon them or by allowing the Taliban and others to think that all they have to do is bide their time until Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) forces withdraw.”

The Afghan army and police had “many challenges” before they were ready to take on full responsibility for security.

The committee’s report was also scathing about the “unacceptable” failure of senior military commanders to warn ministers of the dangers facing British troops when they were deployed into Helmand province in 2006 under Tony Blair’s government. It said that for three years they lacked the necessary numbers and equipment after commanders in the UK wrongly told the then defence secretary John Reid that commanders on the ground had the resources they required.

“We believe that such concerns as were raised by the armed forces were inadequate at best, and that they were not raised, as they should have been, to the very highest levels of government,” it said.

“We are disturbed by the fact that the Secretary of State was being told that commanders on the ground were content with the support they were being given in Helmand when clearly they were not.

“We regard it as unacceptable that hard-pressed forces in such a difficult operation as Helmand should have been denied the necessary support to carry out the mission from the outset, and that this shortage had not been brought to the attention of ministers.”

The MPs said it appeared “unlikely” commanders had sought ministerial authorisation for a change of tactics in 2006 which saw British troops move into northern Helmand where they were left “fighting for their lives ... in a series of Alamos”.

The committee also criticised the MoD for not responding quickly enough to the Taliban’s increased use of improvised explosive devices from 2007 and said it was still not convinced the troops now in Afghanistan had sufficient helicopters. - Daily Mail