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Panetta, Hammond discuss Afghanistan

20 July, 2012

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed with his British counterpart Phillip Hammond the current situation in Afghanistan and cooperation after the 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops from that country.

"We discussed the important progress that has been made in Afghanistan, as well as the challenges that will need to be overcome to ensure that our shared sacrifices result in enduring gains," Panetta told reporters during a joint Pentagon news conference with Hammond.

Panetta expressed his personal and the nation's sincere gratitude for the roughly 9,500 British troops who continued to serve alongside US soldiers in Afghanistan.

He expressed his deepest condolences for the more than 400 British troops killed during their mission in southern Afghanistan. "They have courageously followed in the footsteps of generations of British servicemen and servicewomen who have fought side by side with the United States to defend our freedom, and to defend our values."

They had held useful discussion on Afghanistan, as the US and ISAF partners prepared to draw down combat operations by the end of 2014, the British defence secretary told reporters.

In particular, the planned drawdown in Helmand, where UK forces worked so closely and in an integrated fashion with the US Marine Corps, figured at their meeting, Hammond told reporters.

"Our forces are proud to work alongside US forces, and we honor their dead, who have given their lives in our common cause," he said.

Hammond added close collaboration and working partnerships would remain the key, and the UK intended to stay America's most capableally both in the current mission in Afghanistan and on future operations.


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