LONDON: Britain will likely follow the United States to reduce its troops in Afghanistan, but will continue to work with its government and the United States to protect the country’s security, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday. Said
On Tuesday, the United States announced that it would reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 before incumbent President Donald Trump leaves office in mid-January. Withdrawal from the country’s army will accelerate.
The announcement comes as violence continues to escalate, with the Taliban continuing to target government leaders, security forces and civilians.
Wallace said neither the United States nor Britain, which has about 1,000 troops in the war-torn country, is completely withdrawing at this stage. But he said: “I expect that if they (the US) are declining at some point, we will come down.” Wallace said the UK has limited scope to operate independently of its largest ally, but agreed with the Treasury that it would give the country more power in the future.
“Part of this defense review is how the UK can become more independent,” he told Sky News. “How can we complement each other around the world? If one force or the other goes out and we … decide we want to stay longer, we can do it. “At the moment, if the United States unilaterally eliminates some of these countries, we have a challenge.”
Following the US announcement, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that a “hasty” withdrawal from the US-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan could lead to more violence.
“It simply came to our notice then. We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay longer than necessary. But at the same time, leaving too soon or too late can be costly, ”Stoltenberg said in a statement Monday. NATO has less than 12,000 troops from dozens of nations in Afghanistan to help train and advise national security forces. The U.S. military often accounts for half of that number, and the 30-nation alliance relies heavily on the U.S. military for transportation, logistics and other assistance.