In January 2015 following 13 years of combat operations, NATO started its new non-combat train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan. At the same time, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), which the UK and our NATO partners have played a key role in developing, assumed the lead for security in their country.
In their first fighting season since the drawdown of international combat troops, the ANDSF have been tested in parts of the country, but they have also shown themselves to be an increasingly professional, competent and dedicated fighting force.
The UK Government recognised it would take time for the ANDSF to develop into a fully fledged fighting force capable of providing complete security for the people of Afghanistan. We therefore made plans to review our commitment in light of its performance over the year and the overall security situation.
I would like to inform the House that we have now concluded that we should maintain the scale of the UK’s current military mission in the country in 2016, to help build a secure and stable Afghanistan.
The scope and role of the UK mission are unchanged. We will continue to help develop Afghanistan’s future military leaders through our work at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, to build capacity within the Afghan security ministries, and to provide vital support to NATO operations in Kabul. Around 450 UK personnel will work in close co-ordination with our NATO allies and partners in the delivery of these important tasks.
This decision follows President Obama’s announcement on 15 October that the United States is delaying the drawdown of US troops and will maintain its current force level in Afghanistan through most of next year. Both the US and our own decisions underline NATO’s continued commitment to training and assisting Afghan forces as they grow stronger.
Finally, I wish to record my immense gratitude and admiration for all of our brave men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in Afghanistan. We will never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by each and every one of the 456 members of the armed forces who have died during operations in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice has helped to protect our country and our citizens from the threat of terrorism, as well as giving the people of Afghanistan the chance of a better future.