The U.K. announced this week that it plans to increase its military footprint in war-devastated Afghanistan by 440 troops – to 1,100 – at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump, Reuters reports.
The news outlet notes:
Prime Minister Theresa May announced the government will send an extra 440 troops, which would bring Britain’s total to about 1,100, to help Afghan troops fighting Taliban and Islamic State insurgents. 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 be in a combat role. British troops ended combat operations in 2014.
“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,” PM May declared. “NATO is as vital today as it ever has been and our commitment to it remains steadfast. The Alliance can rely on the UK to lead by example.”
Britain’s troop increase announcement came the day before a NATO summit in Belgium, where, at the NATO breakfast meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday, President Trump blasted allies who refused to spend the minimum two percent GDP on defense, calling them “delinquent.”
U.S-NATO troops have been fighting a war in Afghanistan since 2001.
President Trump has urged NATO members to send more troops to the country, where opium cultivation, heroin production, and Taliban territory and manpower reached unprecedented levels under the previous U.S. administration.
Jihadists groups, mainly the Taliban, have gained even more territory since the Trump administration unveiled its strategy to end the war in August 2017.
Citing anonymous officials, Reuters reports that after a “discouraging year,” the U.S. may review its Afghan strategy, which the Trump administration recently touted as a plan that is slowing down the resilient Taliban’s momentum.
“Several current U.S. officials and other former officials and advisers with direct knowledge said the White House had not yet formally ordered the review, but they were preparing for a government-wide appraisal in the next few months,” the news outlet acknowledges, adding:
Officials said Trump has shown signs of frustration over the lack of progress since he unveiled a strategy last August that committed to an open-ended deployment of U.S. military advisers, trainers and special forces and increased air support for Afghan security forces. The goal was to force the Taliban militants to open peace talks with the Kabul government.
Trump was opposed to remaining in America’s longest war, but was convinced by his advisers to give it more time. He authorized last year the deployment an additional 3,000 U.S. troops, bringing the total to around 15,000.
The White House National Security Council told Reuters that it “regularly conducts reviews” of its policies.
Reuters issued its report on the possible policy review days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stressed on Monday that the plan is working, slowing the Taliban’s momentum and making at least some of the terrorists realize they “cannot win” on the battlefield.
Ghani and Pompeo credited an unprecedented three-day ceasefire in June to Trump’s strategy.
John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General of Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, recently noted that Afghan strategy needs “time to take effect.”
As of the end of March, nearly 14,000 U.S. military troops and 7,500 forces from NATO allies and non-NATO partner nations were serving in Afghanistan, according to SIGAR.