Prime Minister Gordon Brown has delivered a Christmas message to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan praising their "dedication, courage and resolve".
In a broadcast on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show, Mr Brown said the "tragic" losses suffered by the forces were felt more acutely at this time of year.
He acknowledged the "demanding" nature of operations, but insisted their work was "making a real difference".
He also reiterated his recent pledge to pull troops out of Iraq by Summer 2009.
He said: "I realise that serving in the armed forces requires each of you to make personal sacrifices.
"This is particularly evident at Christmas when many of you will be overseas or undertaking essential duties while the rest of the nation gathers to celebrate together.
"I am grateful for the sacrifices you make on our behalf and remain committed to improving your support at home and on operations; you deserve nothing less."
Highlighting the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, Mr Brown said the job of training up the country's own troops "will soon be done".
He added it was essential to ensure that Afghanistan did not "again become a base for international terrorism".