Summary:Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said military equipment is being removed from Afghanistan, as British troops prepare to withdraw by 2014.
Data is only available
until 2010, but the U.S. Census Bureau stats reveal a startling slide for
America's businesses. While the country boasted 5.14 million firms with up to
99 employees as of March 2008, that number dropped to 4.92 million by March
2010 - representing a loss of roughly 223,800 businesses and 3.1 million
The Army is "working hard"
on its withdrawal plan, and the pace could quicken if allies, including the US,
bring forward their exit plans.
An audit is under way of the £4bn
worth of sophisticated military hardware and logistical back-up in the country.
David Cameron says the UK will stay
committed to Afghanistan after 2014.
Five hundred UK troops are due to be
withdrawn from Helmand province this year, leaving 9,000.
Mr Hammond told the BBC Radio 4's
World at One programme that unused equipment was already being
"routinely" removed from the country.
"It is a big challenge. We've
got £4bn worth of kit in theatre - we're already on to it, the Army is already
working hard on the extraction plan," he said.
Much of the equipment is being
removed from the country through Pakistan.
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Conservative MP Adam Holloway said
the withdrawal could only be achieved by paying off local people, and the
Taliban would cash in on the process.
But Mr Hammond said: "We
already use local contractors extensively in Afghanistan, as do the Americans,
and we have robust mechanisms in place to ensure that these contractors are
"But Afghanistan is a very
complex and in some places very chaotic society, and it would be unrealistic to
suggest that not one penny of the money we spend on getting stuff in and out of
Afghanistan gets into the hands of people who are sympathetic to the
He also said he could not
"absolutely guarantee" none of the equipment would fall into the
hands of those associated with Taliban.
"It would be wrong to say that,
as we undertake this huge logistical exercise, there won't be some occasions
when something goes wrong," he said.
'Out on a limb'
The defence secretary said it was
important that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was carried out "in
tandem" with the United States and other Nato allies.
It is important to "leave behind
a fitting legacy of the sacrifice that so many British service people have made
in Afghanistan", he said.
And he said if they pull their
forces out more quickly, the British pattern for bringing combat troops home by
2014 would reflect that.
"We don't want to be left out
on a limb," he said.
"If our allies are drawing down
quickly then we will look to draw down on a pattern that reflects that."
But he said it also depended on the
"security situation on the ground".
Last week Mr Cameron held talks in
Kabul with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and the Prime Minister of
Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf.
Mr Cameron said after the meeting
Britain would remain committed to Afghanistan after combat troops come home in
2014, and that the Taliban should not think that they could "wait it
He said the pull-out would be carried out
"in a sensible, ordered and practical way".
The Obama administration
notes that the trend has since reversed, and that the country has seen 28
consecutive months of private-sector job growth.
But a recent slowdown in
private-sector hiring has raised questions about the direction and strength of
that recovery. And amid an escalating campaign trail battle about President
Obama's recent remarks on businesses, a new poll shows American business owners
are harboring serious doubts.
The Gallup poll released
Thursday showed business owners are among those with the most negative views of
the Obama administration. The national poll showed just 35 percent of them
approve of Obama's job performance, while 59 percent disapprove. Among all
workers, participants in the survey were split 47-47 percent.
A definitive figure on
how many small businesses closed during the recession is hard to come by. While
the recession technically started in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, the
Census figures only count the number of businesses starting in March of each
year. If one looks at the stretch between March 2007 and March 2010, the loss
of businesses with 99 workers or fewer is even more pronounced -- with a loss of
273,316 firms. The definition of a "small business" is also flexible,
but FoxNews.com looked at those with fewer than 100 workers.
The Obama administration
frequently says that despite modest growth since 2010, the economy still has a
long way to go to recover from the pain of the recession.
Republicans, though, have
hammered the administration for policies they claim have hurt, or will hurt,
America's businesses including environmental regulation and the health care
The president's recent "you
didn't build that" remark has also stoked accusations that Obama is giving
too much credit to government and relying too much on government to revive the
"If you were
successful, somebody along the line gave you some help," Obama said earlier
this month. "There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody
helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed
you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a
business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."
The president claims his
remarks have been taken out of context and that he was just referring to the
fact that businesses didn't build roads and bridges.
spokeswoman Jen Psaki told Fox News that Obama has a record of fighting for
small businesses, and he was only talking about the importance of working
"The proof is really
in the pudding here. What has he done? What does his record say about how much
he cares about making sure small businesses and entrepreneurs ... are getting
the help that they need?"
But for days, Romney and
other Republicans have hammered the president and claimed he was talking about
the businesses themselves.
The Romney campaign
released two new web videos Thursday focusing on the remarks. In one, a Nevada
business owner challenges Obama over the comments. The other includes several
business owners sharing their stories about businesses they started.
"I think the reason
that the Obama campaign is responding ... is because they believe that he
screwed up and really told the truth about what he truly believes," Romney
senior adviser Kevin Madden told Fox News.