Britain hopes to step up the search for a political solution in Afghanistan in the second half of next year, when it expects coalition forces to have a psychological advantage over Taliban insurgents, the defence minister said. Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the Taliban had been spreading the message that the United States and its allies would withdraw next summer, but the continued Western presence would disprove this, giving NATO-led forces the psychological advantage. "It is therefore of huge importance that we take advantage of the period immediately after the summer next year to make it very clear that we're not going home, that the Taliban were not telling the truth," Fox told a British parliamentary committee. "That would be a time that we would want to be pushing our psychological advantage and pushing concepts of reconciliation in that period. We need to be aware of when we have potentially got the upper hand psychologically in this conflict and be willing to move into the political space," he added. The 100,000-strong U.S. force in Afghanistan is the largest component of the 150,000 foreign troops there, and Washington plans to start withdrawing them in July next year. Britain has some 10,000 troops there and also hopes to start bringing some home in 2011. But Fox said troops would remain in Afghanistan in great numbers, particularly where the insurgency is strongest. Coalition forces have until the end of 2014 to hand security control to Afghan forces, as agreed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a summit in Lisbon last month. Reports about Afghan-led talks with the Taliban to negotiate an end to the war have intensified, particularly ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's review of the conflict due on Thursday, but there has been little sign of progress. Fox said Afghan forces were improving rapidly, and by next summer Afghanistan would have an increased sense of sovereignty, which would also build a psychological advantage over the Taliban. But violence is at its worst across the rugged country since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, with military and civilian casualties at record highs. Governance remains weak and corruption entrenched.