Johnson says most British troops have left Afghanistan
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday announced that most British troops have left Afghanistan, nearly 20 years after the kingdom followed the United States and other NATO allies into the country.
“All British troops assigned to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan are now returning home,” Johnson told the U.K. Parliament’s House of Commons.
Citing security reasons, he declined to give further details on the troop withdrawal but noted that “most of our personnel have already left.”
British soldiers have been in Afghanistan since after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda, events that sparked the 20-year conflict. The war has claimed the lives of 457 British soldiers.
But when President Biden earlier this year set a Sept. 11 deadline for withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country, NATO announced it would follow. Now, most of the roughly 3,500 remaining U.S. troops and about 7,000 NATO soldiers have exited since the effort began in May.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon said the U.S. troop withdrawal was more than 90 percent complete, with the final withdrawal likely to take place by late August.
The U.K. and other countries’ removal of troops comes as the Taliban have taken large swaths of territory in Afghanistan, sparking fears the Afghan government would quickly fall once foreign troops leave.
Johnson said the threat from al Qaeda to the U.K. is “substantially lower” than it was in 2001, but “of course there remain terrorist threats from Afghanistan.”
He did not answer questions about whether the quick military exit would unravel two decades of efforts in keeping terrorist groups at bay, only saying that the U.K. “must be realistic about our ability alone to influence the course of events.”
“It will take combined efforts of many nations, including Afghanistan’s neighbors, to help the Afghan people to build their future,” Johnson said. “But the threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valor and by the sacrifice of the armed forces of Britain and many other countries.”
He also pressed that the U.K. will continue to use diplomacy to help the Afghan government and the Taliban reach a peace agreement, saying “we are not walking away.”
“We are keeping our embassy in Kabul, and we will continue to work with our friends and allies, particularly our friends in Pakistan, to work towards a settlement,” Johnson said.
Peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban, which have been taking place in Qatar, have not made much progress and representatives from the two sides have met infrequently.
Additionally, Johnson said Britain will provide the Afghan government with roughly $138 million in development aid this year and give another $80 million for the Afghan security forces.
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