David Cameron has dismissed fears that Afghanistan could revert to a terrorist haven as he paid a pre-Christmas visit to troops in the country.
The Prime Minister defended newly announced plans for the British force to be almost halved to 5,200 next year. Combat operations are due to end completely by 2014.
Critics have warned that Western forces are cutting and running from their 11-year engagement in Afghanistan, potentially opening the door to a "Taliban resurgence". But during his traditional seasonal visit, Mr Cameron said he believes Afghan security forces are getting the "capability" to control the country.
"The fact is they are doing better than expected," he said in a round of broadcast interviews. "This is withdrawal. This is draw-down based on success not on failure."
Pulling troops out is "being done for good military reasons and it has been done in a proper way". He said: "We're confident it can be done while making sure Afghanistan does not return to become a haven of terrorism which is of course why we came here in the first place."
Mr Cameron admitted that Afghanistan is still a "deeply challenged country", but insisted: "It is a far better place than it was when we came here in 2001. We have paid a very heavy price but I think the reason for coming here in the first place, which was to stop Afghanistan being a haven for terror ... I think it was the right decision."
Referring to the evidence of terrorism plots that crosses his desk, the premier said: "Far fewer come from this part of the world than was the case when we first came to Afghanistan."
The Government has pledged an extra £230 million on military kit, with officials saying the move demonstrates its determination to see the campaign through. The money, from the Treasury reserve, is being invested immediately. The funding covers £29 million for additional IED detectors; more military working dogs for IED detection on foot patrols; £10 million to upgrade counter-IED capabilities on armoured vehicles; and a £5 million to boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Camp Bastion.
Touring Camp Bastion in Helmand, Mr Cameron viewed vehicles now surplus to requirements and which are being sent home after troop numbers were cut by 500 to 9,000 this Christmas.
Brigadier Bob Bruce, commander of Task Force Helmand, said the capabilities of Afghan forces have "risen markedly" over the last eight to 12 months. He told the BBC: "The Afghans working with us now really are in control. The insurgency is still there. It's not gone but it doesn't dictate things."