On 1 June 2017 I said that NATO had requested additional troops to support the non-combat Train Advise and Assist Resolute Support (RS) mission in Afghanistan. This request went to all countries that are part of the RS mission to implement a new strategy developed by NATO, in partnership with the Afghan Government, to reinvigorate the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF). The strategy’s goal is to expand governance and security throughout Afghanistan and, in turn, set the conditions for progress on a political settlement with the Taliban.
The security situation in Afghanistan remains challenging. The ANDSF are improving but the rate of their development is affected by a range of complex challenges, not least the nature and strength of a determined insurgency. The NATO strategy will address these challenges.
The Government has carefully considered the NATO request and we have decided to increase the UK’s troop contribution to the RS mission by around 85 personnel. These troops will serve in non-combat roles to support directly the implementation of the NATO strategy. We will increase the number of mentors advising the Afghan Army and Police, the Afghan Air Force, and provide further support to ANDSF training and leadership development. This deployment will add to the significant contribution the UK is already making to the RS mission. We have around 500 troops based in Kabul serving in roles focused on improving the capability of the Afghan security institutions, developing the Afghan National Army Officer Academy and providing vital force protection for NATO advisors through our leadership of the Kabul Security Force. Through helping to achieve progress in Afghanistan, our troops have helped to reduce the terrorist threat to the UK from this region.
Military support is only part of the solution. Our continued military, diplomatic and financial assistance is designed to enable and support the advancement of the Afghan-led peace process to deliver a political settlement and lasting stability.
Finally, I wish to record my gratitude and admiration for all of our brave men and women who have served in Afghanistan. The UK will never forget the sacrifice made by the 456 members of the Armed Forces who died during operations there. They helped protect our country from the threat of terrorism and, through our continued support to the mission, we are working to protect their legacy.