US-UK to end "lead combat role" in Afghanistan by mid 2013

Washington, Mar 13 (ANI): US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are all set to give a green signal on Wednesday to tentative plans for British and American troops to end their "lead combat role" in Afghanistan by the middle of next year.

Their meeting comes amid growing anger in Afghanistan over the killing of 16 civilians on Sunday by a US soldier, and follows the funerals in Britain of six soldiers killed by a bomb earlier this month, taking the death toll of UK troops over the 400 mark.

Amid fears among NATO commanders in Afghanistan that the troop "draw down" may be moving too rapidly, the two leaders will discuss plans for British and US troops to move from "lead combat" to a support and training role by the middle of 2013, The Guardian reports.

This could involve what is being described as a "support combat role", though all NATO troops except those involved in training Afghan forces are due to be withdrawn by the end of 2014.

Cameron and Obama will hold discussions at the Oval Office on Wednesday during the three-day official visit by the prime minister to the US, which begins on Tuesday.

Reports suggest that the head of NATO's mission, US General John Allen, had given "unequivocal advice" to the White House that he wanted troop numbers to remain as high as possible until September of 2013, the end of that year's so-called fighting season. (ANI)