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UK Nearly Doubles Forces in Afghanistan at US Behest Amid NATO Summit

Sputnik News

10:32 11.07.2018(updated 10:34 11.07.2018)

The British government has revealed that it is planning to reinforce the country's troops in the war-torn Middle East country, whose army is still struggling to counter Daesh* and Taliban* terrorists, who have claimed hundreds of victims.

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that the UK would increase its group in Afghanistan up to 1,100 people, sending an extra 440 troops, to help the local army fight Daesh and Taliban militia. They are to participate in NATO's Resolute Support mission, training the Afghan security forces.The troops, which would be based in the country's capital Kabul, are not supposed to take part in active military activity, as the British forces finished combating in 2014 and have since been involved in assisting and training the local troops.

"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. 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," the British head of state said, commenting on the deployment.

The UK decided to enhance its presence on NATO's behalf in Afghanistan following Donald Trump's deployment of thousands of extra forces in Afghanistan last year. The US President has also called on his NATO allies to do the same.

The UK move has come right before the NATO summit is expected to kicks off in Brussels, Belgium, on July 11 amid growing tensions within the alliance. Over the recent months, Donald Trump has repeatedly pressed the other member governments of NATO to meet their annual defense spending obligations in the alliance since he took office in January 2017; only 14 percent of them have done so. On the eve of his arrival at the grand gathering, Donald Trump suggested in a Twitter message that NATO member nations that have not met their 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) defense budget obligations for many years should reimburse the United States for them.

Just four NATO member states met the stated goal of spending 2 percent or more of their GDP on defense in 2017, with the remaining 24 members falling short, according to a report by the Pew Research Center on Monday.

Afghanistan has long been suffering from an unstable political, social and security situation due to the activity of various terrorist and radical groups, including the Taliban. In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan to remove the Islamic ultra-fundamentalist movement from power in the country, but ended combat operations and withdrew its main forces by 2014, shuffling off the main responsibility to fight against radicalized militants onto the Afghan government. However the US-led coalition's troops remain in the country; they are not only supposed to train the Afghan army, but also are entitled to launch airstrikes against Daesh and Taliban terrorists if needed.

Meanwhile, a top Afghan commander has recently said that 77,000 Taliban militants are battling the Afghan government – more than double the estimates from US and Afghan officials about the insurgents' strength; 5,000 of them are foreign fighters and 3,000 are Daesh militants.

According to the latest quarterly report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the local government controls or influences 56.3% of the country's territory, with the remaining 43.7% of districts either being held by the Taliban or contested.

*Daesh (IS/ISIS/ISIl/Islamic State) and Taliban – terrorist groups banned in Russia

Sputnik



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