The UK is to send an additional 440 troops to Afghanistan. Currently, 660 British personnel are in country as part of a training force for the Afghan Army. The UK officially ended its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, although UKSF have continued to operate there.
The additional troop deployment comes in the wake of President Trump’s call for its NATO Allies to contribute more to NATO commitments. The UK is one of only four countries in NATO that meets the Wales Agreement requirement to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence.
Theresa May said of the new deployment: “The alliance can rely on the UK to lead by example, not just in meeting the 2% pledge, but by contributing our cutting edge capabilities to operations around the world. In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, the UK is among the first to answer.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, on a visit to Afghanistan earlier this year, said that a secure Afghanistan will “help keep the streets of Britain safe”.
The additional troops will be from the Welsh Guards; they will mentor and train Afghan Forces, as well as providing security for international advisers in Kabul. The Guards will start to deploy in August, with a second contingent following in February 2019, at which time British troop numbers in Afghanistan will have risen to some 1100.
Former British Army commanders, such as Lord Richards have indicated that the UK should not be deterred by recent setbacks and indeed that we should do more in Afghanistan. Local security forces seem not to have achieved the necessary level of capability to deal with the Taliban insurgency, and a spate of casualties has reduced both morale and recruitment levels. It is against this backdrop of increased concerns about a Taliban resurgence that NATO official are once again talking about the need for increasing foreign force levels above the 16,000 currently deployed.