The UK will withdraw another 500 troops from Afghanistan next year, as armed forces begin to transfer combat duties to the Afghan security forces, the prime minister announced on Wednesday.

The decision comes just a few weeks after President Obama said he intended to withdraw 33,000 US troops from the country by the end of next autumn. At the time Obama's announcement drew wide criticisms as many felt his choice stood in opposition to the commanders of the ground.

With British soldiers still losing their life in Afghanistan, the British Prime Minister has also been under pressure to consider a more radical drawdown from the areas in Helmand province where the British are currently stationed, but following a new surge of Taliban attacks, it seems Cameron has after all decided to take a more cautious approach.

After consulting with the National Security Council and military officials, who insist the situation in still very fragile, Downing Street has chosen to keep troop numbers high until the end of 2012.

Cameron today explained to MPs why he thought it was right to withdraw 500 extra soldiers could be withdrawn next year and told his fellow politicians that Afghanistan was entering a "new phase", that "the country needs to know that there is an end point and that ''This decision is not only right for Britain, it is right for Afghanistan too."

Despite the Taliban and other militant groups recurrently conducting attacks on civilians, Cameron insisted there was evidence that al-Qaida's strength had been diminished and there were tentative signs that the Taliban was becoming weaker.

"While it is too early to tell for certain, initial evidence suggests that we have halted the momentum of the Taliban insurgency in its heartland in Helmand province," he said, before adding that the killing of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces had presented the Taliban with "a moment of real choice" to abandon its struggle and join the political process.

"We should take this opportunity to send a clear message to the Taliban - now is the time to break decisively from al Qaida and to participate in peaceful political process," he said.

"Afghan forces now stand ready to take over security ... there has been real progress over the last two years."

In his statement to the House of Commons, Cameron said he was committed to ending the UK's combat role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

"It has given the Afghans a clear deadline against which to plan and has injected a sense of urgency into their efforts," he told MPs.

It is thought only 2,000 UK troops will be left in the country by 2014, which implies the need for a sharp acceleration of the withdrawal process in 2013.

The UK currently has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan and ministers had previously already announced that 450 troops would come back to the U.K. this year, and as the withdrawal process started, almost half of them have already left.

The U.K is also now expected to hand over responsibility for security in the districts where British troops are based to the Afghan army and police, in just a few weeks.

Earlier this week during a trip to Afghanistan, Cameron indicated there would not be a significant reduction for the next two summers, which are traditionally the "fighting seasons" for the military.

"You have the enduring number of 9,500. You're not going to see a radical change for the fighting season of next year," Cameron said. "That's not what this is about. 2014 is a deadline - be in no doubt. This is a matter of judgment. It is my judgment that it is right. The British people and the British military deserve to have some certainty."

The prime minister's visit coincided with the death of another British soldier, Scott McLaren 20, the 375th to have been killed in the country since 2001.