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“Last night a patrolling convoy … hit a roadside mine and one of the foreigners’ tanks hit the mine and a number of their soldiers were killed.” Almas told an AP videographer at the scene.

Cameron said that troops in Afghanistan were paying a huge price. “I do believe it’s important work for our national security right here at home but of course this work will increasingly be carried out by Afghan soldiers and we all want to see that transition take place.”

NATO has slowly been transitioning security control over Afghan cities and provinces to the country’s security forces — which it has spent billions of dollars to train and equip. That transition will be complete at the of 2014.

After the U.S., Britain has the largest contingent in the international force and says it will withdraw several hundred this year and almost all of them by the end of 2014. The United States has been slowly drawing down its troop presence from a high of about 100,000 in 2011 to 68,000 at the end of summer.

Cameron told the House of Commons that he will discuss with President Barack Obama in Washington next week plans to withdraw almost all international forces by the end of 2014, but stressed that Britain and the U.S. remain in “lockstep” over the proposed drawdown.

He also acknowledged the need to remind the British public why Britain was continuing to bear the burden of military casualties in Afghanistan. “We need to restate clearly why we are there, why it’s in our national interest,” he said.

On Tuesday, Obama said the accidental burning of Qurans in Afghanistan on Feb. 20 and the retaliatory killings of six U.S. troops by Afghan security forces have given new credence to the need to end the war.

“I think that it is an indication of the challenges in that environment, and it’s an indication that now is the time for us to transition,” Obama said during a White House news conference.

Obama announced no speeding up of the NATO-backed plan to end combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, saying “that continues to be the plan.” But he said the violence aimed at Americans in Afghanistan that followed the accidental burning of Qurans on a U.S. base was “unacceptable.”

He offered his apologies to Karzai, a move that was roundly criticized by his Republican presidential rivals as weak and unnecessary. A letter calling for Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan had the backing of 23 senators, mostly Democrats but including two conservative Republicans.

 

Associated Press writers Danica Kirka in London, Sebastian Abbot, Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez in Kabul, contributed to this report.