London: The British government is planning to almost double the number of its troops in Afghanistan after a request from US President Donald Trump for reinforcements to help tackle the fragile security situation there.
Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government will send an extra 440 troops to help Afghan troops fighting Taliban and IS insurgents, bringing Britain‘s total to about 1,100.
The extra troops will be taking part in a NATO-led training mission called Resolute Support to train and assist Afghan forces. They will be based in Kabul and will not play a combat role. British troops ended combat operations in 2014.
The announcement comes a day before the NATO summit in Belgium that could turn contentious over US President Donald Trump’s insistence that allies pay more for defence.
Trump, who announced that US would send thousands more troops to Afghanistan last year, has asked Britain and other NATO countries to send more reinforcements to the country.
“In committing additional troops to the Train Advise Assist operation in Afghanistan, we have underlined once again that when NATO calls, UK is among the first to answer,” said May. “NATO is as vital today as it has ever been and our commitment to it remains steadfast. The alliance can rely on UK to lead by example”, she said.
The increase in British troops comes ahead of parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in October, seen as a crucial test for democracy in a country which has been at war for four decades.
The extra British troops will initially come from the Welsh Guards, with around half arriving in August and the rest arriving in February next year.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed and wounded in attacks in Kabul this year. At least 57 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a voter registration booth in April and about 100 people were killed in January by a bomb in an ambulance.
Thousands more US troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help train the army and commanders have been given greater authority to carry out air strikes against militants in a major reversal of the previous American policy of phased withdrawal.
But almost 17 years since the US tried to topple Afghanistan‘s Taliban – responsible for harbouring Al Qaeda militants behind attacks on New York and Washington—the West remains entangled in an effort to stabilise the country.