Most UK troops now out of Afghanistan: Johnson

Most UK troops now out of Afghanistan: Johnson
The UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed a large majority of British troops stationed in Afghanistan have now been pulled out of the country.
3 min read
08 July, 2021
Johnson confirmed the pullout on Thursday [Getty]

Most of the remaining British troops assigned to the NATO mission in Afghanistan have left, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday, with the rest to come home shortly.

"All British troops assigned to NATO's mission in Afghanistan are now returning home... I will not disclose the timetable of our departure, but I can tell the House that most of our personnel have already left," he said in a statement to MPs.

Johnson on Wednesday said he was "apprehensive" about the future of Afghanistan as the United States announced that its withdrawal from the country was now more than 90 percent complete.

He stressed to MPs that it would take "the combined effort of many nations, including Afghanistan's neighbours, to help Afghanistan build their future". 

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"But the threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valour and the sacrifice of the armed forces of Britain and many other countries," he said.

"We are safer because of everything they did."

A total of 457 British troops died in action in Afghanistan after the country joined the US-led coalition intervention after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

The conflict has cost the country around £40 billion ($55 billion, 46.7 billion euros).

In 2014, the British mission in Afghanistan, centred around the restive southern province of Helmand, shifted from a combat operation to one focused on supporting Afghan national forces, with the help of around 750 troops.

Fighting raged on Thursday between the Taliban and government forces in the northwestern province of Badghis, the first provincial capital to face an all-out assault by the Taliban since the US stepped up its troop withdrawal.

The government in Kabul responded by flying hundreds of commandos into the area.

Johnson demanded that the Taliban abide by its commitments to a peace deal signed last year.

"I am sure they will be aware there is no military path to victory for the Taliban," he said.

"There must be a peaceful and a negotiated settlement for the political crisis."

On Wednesday, Johnson has conceded that he is "apprehensive" about the future of Afghanistan.

Johnson described the current situation in Afghanistan as "fraught with risks" as he spoke to select committee chairs in the UK’s parliament liaison committee on Wednesday, signalling his doubts as the Taliban seek to tighten their grip on roughly a third of Afghanistan's more than 400 districts.

In response to a question delivered on behalf of Tory MP Tobias Elwood on the UK's deployment to Afghanistan, Johnson said: "If you’re asking me whether I feel happy about the current situation in Afghanistan, of course I don't. I'm apprehensive, of course I am."

He suggested that the UK must be prepared for the prospect of Afghanistan's government reaching a settlement involving the Taliban.

The UK has reasoned that the withdrawal of its remaining 750 troops in the country, who assist Afghan forces largely in a training role, is justified due to a loss of protection when the 2,500-strong US-led mission in the country leaves.

In November, a leading Afghan human rights group called on the British government to carry out an independent inquiry into allegations of possible war crimes in Afghanistan, following an inquiry into the alleged unlawful killing of Afghan civilians at the hands of Australian special forces.

Last year, signs emerged that the UK is making it harder the prosecute potential war crimes, with the introduction of the Overseas Operations Bill granting qualified immunity to servicemen and women accused of war crimes and abuses committed more than five years ago.