Border pact paves way for British exit from Afghanistan
Published 28/02/2012 | 05:00
BRITAIN signalled the start of the withdrawal of its vast military infrastructure from Afghanistan yesterday with the signing of a crucial new defence pact which should ensure safe passage home for equipment worth billions of pounds.
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, signed a defence co-operation agreement with Kazakhstan which the UK government hopes will enable an estimated £4bn (€5bn) of equipment, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers, to be shipped out of northern Afghanistan.
Britain and its NATO allies have been desperately seeking alternative routes following Pakistan's decision to close the supply route from Karachi to Afghanistan.
A car laden with explosives detonated outside an airport in eastern Afghanistan yesterday killing nine people in what Taliban militants claimed was retaliation for the burning of copies of the Koran by American soldiers.
The suicide blast in Jalalabad heralded a seventh consecutive day of violence since reports first surfaced that holy texts had been destroyed in Bagram airbase.
The Afghan interior ministry said six civilians, two policemen and a soldier were killed. Twelve people were wounded. The NATO-led coalition said none of its troops was injured.
A spokesman for the Taliban said: "The foreign forces have insulted our religion and this attack was revenge."
Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Kabul, cautioned against using the current crisis as a pretext for hastening a withdrawal of Nato forces from Afghanistan before the deadline at the end of 2014. (©Daily Telegraph, London)