UK & World News
Miliband Warning On Afghanistan Pullout
Labour leader Ed Miliband has met troops in Afghanistan and warned the international community to "up its game" on political progress.
Mr Miliband expressed fears that the country would slip back into being a failed state when combat forces are withdrawn in 2014.
In an address to troops at the end of a tour of British bases, Mr Miliband said that political failure must not be allowed to undermine their "extraordinary" efforts.
A total of 414 members of UK forces have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.
Speaking at the British Embassy ahead of talks with president Hamid Karzai and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah, he said: "It is incredibly eye-opening coming out and actually seeing what they are doing, throwing themselves in harm's way, every day going out on patrol.
"Seeing it up close, with people who are young enough to be my son or daughter doing that, is incredibly humbling."
He added: "The international community needs to up its game in getting a lasting political settlement here in Afghanistan because I think that is necessary in order to prevent Afghanistan slipping back into being a failed state.
"There is a lot more work to do to make that happen."
He said it would be wrong for anyone, including those who opposed the campaign in the first place, to argue for the troops to be pulled out before 2014, despite increased public hostility to the war.
Mr Miliband's visit to the troops on Friday was kept secret for security reasons.
After flying in to Camp Bastion, the UK's main base in Helmand, Mr Miliband started the day by chatting with soldiers over a full English breakfast.
Under a hot sun, he then headed to provincial capital Lashkar Gah to talk about the progress of Afghan control with the commander of the Helmand task force Brigadier Doug Chalmers.
A moment of reflection followed as he stopped, flanked by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy, before a memorial to some of the fallen British troops at a patrol base in Nahr-e Saraj district.
The pause to remember the dead was made more poignant by the flag of The Yorkshire Regiment fluttering at half mast in honour of the six men - five from the regiment's 3rd Battalion - lost when their Warrior armoured vehicle was blown up by a massive improvised explosive device on March 6.
All three of the districts where the UK is involved have now been transferred to Afghan control, with some troops telling Mr Miliband their local counterparts have become 10 times more efficient within just a couple of years.
The transition process is due to be complete across Afghanistan by the middle of next year ahead of the 2014 Nato pullout deadline.
Speaking to an Afghan colonel, Mr Miliband praised the "tremendous strides forward".