From Aunty http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8341558.stm A former Labour minister has called for the "great majority" of British troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. Kim Howells, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, said the money should be diverted to securing Britain from terrorist attack. Writing in the Guardian newspaper in a personal capacity he said after seven years support for the war was waning. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said securing Afghanistan's borders was vital for the UK's security. An MoD spokesman said it was "vital to the UK that Afghanistan becomes a stable and secure state that is able to suppress violent extremism within its borders". "Britain's own security is at risk if we again allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists," he added. 'Nice to jihadists' Mr Howells - who supported the war when it began in 2001 - said the opportunity given to the Afghans to tackle the problems blighting the country had "largely been squandered". Meanwhile he said the British people were increasingly questioning whether deploying troops - at a cost to soldiers' lives and the public purse - was the most effective way of preventing "Islamic terrorist murders in the UK". But he admitted that such a shift in tactics would mean "more intrusive surveillance in certain communities" in the UK. It is time to ask whether the fight against those who are intent on murdering British citizens might better be served by diverting [money] to the work of the UK Border Agency and our police and intelligence services Kim Howells MP "Perhaps, like me, they are considering that there might be more effective alternatives to the deployment and wondering why there has been little discussion about them, save for the usual 'if we are nice to violent jihadists they might be nice to us' variety," he wrote. The number of British military personnel killed on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 stands at 224. This year, the UK deployment rose from 8,000 to just over 9,000 - the second largest contribution to the International Security Assistance Forces in the country. Mr Howells said seven years of military involvement had subdued al-Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan but had not destroyed the organisation or its leader, Osama bin Laden. Nor had it dealt with "al-Qaeda's protectors, the Taliban," he said. He said government spending on counter-terrorism should turn from Afghanistan to home soil. "It is time to ask whether the fight against those who are intent on murdering British citizens might better be served by diverting [the cost of maintaining British forces in Afghanistan] to the work of the UK Border Agency and our police and intelligence services." "It would be better... to bring home the great majority of our fighting men and women and concentrate on using the money saved to secure our own borders, gather intelligence on terrorist activities inside Britain, expand our intelligence operations abroad," he wrote in the newspaper. 'Phased withdrawal' He said co-operating with foreign intelligence services and countering the propaganda of those who encourage terrorism should also be prioritised. The MP for Pontypridd, a former Foreign Office minister, acknowledged that such a move would require "reinventing ourselves diplomatically and militarily", including renegotiating international agreements. British soldiers in Afghanistan British troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001 It would also mean "intrusive" surveillance inside the UK, more police officers and border officials and a re-examination of arrangements that allow free movement in the EU. "Life inside the UK would have to change," he said. "Some of these changes will create great opposition," he said, "but many of them will be welcomed." He said the shift in UK public opinion came at a time when the operation was growing, with the US commander requesting more soldiers. A properly planned, phased withdrawal of troops from Helmand province - where the majority of UK forces are based - was necessary he said.