Scots Soldier Killed In Afghan Named

The Ministry of Defence has named a Scots soldier killed in Afghanistan as 20 year old Scott McLaren from Edinburgh.

The soldier, from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was found after a massive manhunt.

He had been reported missing from a military checkpoint in the early hours of the morning, and Taliban groups have claimed responsibility for killing him.

Nato spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick said, "He had suffered gunshot wounds. His exact cause of death is still to be established and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and death are currently under investigation.

It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

Downing Street sources said the Prime Minister was "deeply saddened'' by news that the soldier had become the British armed forces' 375th fatality during the decade-long campaign.

The disappearance forced Mr Cameron to abandon part of an unannounced visit to the country so resources could be deployed to the search.

Before the death was confirmed, the premier admitted the incident was "disturbing''.

But he said the "big picture'' in Afghanistan showed cause for optimism, and the country was moving into a "new phase''.

He also reiterated that there would be no movement in the 2015 deadline for the UK's combat role to end.

"Of course we are going to have challenges and problems right up until the end of this mission,'' he said.

"In the larger picture what is happening is we are moving into a new phase. We can see an increasingly confident Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police Force able to carry out more operations on their own and able to respond to more incidents on their own.''

Mr Cameron said that compared to previous summer fighting seasons in Afghanistan the US and UK seemed to have "got a grip'' on the insurgency, and the level of contacts had been lower than many expected.

The coalition has been coming under pressure to follow the example of US president Barack Obama, who announced last month that 10,000 troops deployed as part of the so-called 'surge' strategy will be coming home by the end of this year, and another 23,000 next.

Some 450 mainly auxiliary British personnel are scheduled to be withdrawn in the coming months and Mr Cameron is expected to tell the Commons on Wednesday that a further 500 will be removed.

"I have always been clear that the end of 2014 is a deadline. We will not be here in large numbers or in a combat role,'' Mr Cameron said.

"If what we are doing was not working by then then I think you would have some serious questions to ask me.''

One Taliban group claimed to have killed the soldier in a gun battle near Babaji. But Nato said it was not aware of any firefight in the area.

Another report suggested he may have left a checkpoint where he was stationed to go swimming with Afghan troops.