UK may double troops in Afghanistan after Donald Trump request

US asks for reinforcements after Taliban resurgence

The UK government is considering doubling the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan in response to a request from Donald Trump for reinforcements in the face of increasing gains by the Taliban.

Britain has about 600 troops in Afghanistan at present, mainly based in Kabul training officers and not engaged in combat. There is also a small contingent of special forces.

The new deployment could see hundreds more return to Afghanistan. The UK withdrew almost all of its combat troops from the country in 2014.

Faced with a Taliban resurgence, the US, which has about 15,000 troops in the country supporting the Afghan military, asked the UK and other Nato countries last summer to send reinforcements. Britain responded with an extra 85.

Later in the year, Trump renewed the plea and the proposed new UK deployment is in response to that request by the US president. The hundreds more British troops are expected to be involved in training rather than combat.

The Ministry of Defence, which usually does not discuss troop deployments in advance, said only that the UK’s contribution was kept under constant review.

An MoD spokesperson said: “The support the UK provides Afghanistan on security, development and governance is crucial to building a stable state and reducing the terrorist threat to the UK. We remain committed to Nato’s non-combat Resolute Support mission, in which we play an important role, and keep our contribution under constant review.”

In spite of pressure on the defence budget, the UK is engaged in 25 operations overseas. It is also struggling to retain and recruit personnel, a problem that was highlighted in new MoD figures published on Thursday showing the army shrinking, down to 77,120, well short of its supposed strength of 82,000.

The overall size of the armed forces, including navy, air force and army, stands at 194,140, down by 2,900 from last year. The army, down from 78,410 a year ago, is at its smallest since the 17th century. Recruitment is traditionally harder in peacetime.

The reduction is down to factors including a series of budget squeezes, computer glitches on the part of Capita, to which the MoD outsourced recruitment, and low morale. The MoD’s annual armed forces continuous attitudes survey revealed that 61% of service personnel described morale as low.

The shadow defence secretary, Nia Griffiths, criticised the government for its “shocking failure to recruit and retain armed forces”.

An MoD spokesperson did not directly address the shrinkage, but said: “We are currently active on 25 operations in 30 countries around the world and have enough personnel to meet all our operational requirements. In the past year, we have recruited over 13,000 people into a variety of posts and we have a range of initiatives to make sure we attract and keep the personnel we need.

“We remain committed to ensuring we have the right skills at every level of the armed forces, so that our world-leading military can continue to face intensifying global threats.”


Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Britain cannot send its young to Afghanistan simply because Trump demands it | Owen Jones
The US president should not be allowed to dictate UK defence policy, says Guardian columnist Owen Jones

Owen Jones

18, May, 2018 @10:49 AM

Article image
Russia is biggest threat to UK since cold war, says head of British army
Gen Sir Nick Carter gives stark warning of ‘complex and capable security challenge’ for Nato

Ewen MacAskill

23, Jan, 2018 @12:23 AM

Article image
British forces' century of unbroken warfare set to end with Afghanistan exit
Next year could be the first since at least 1914 that British soldiers, sailors and air crews will not be engaged in fighting

Ewen MacAskill and Ian Cobain

11, Feb, 2014 @3:28 PM

Article image
Brexit undermining UK armed forces, defence expert warns
Prof Malcolm Chalmers says delaying tough budget decisions eroding UK’s military reputation

Ewen MacAskill Defence correspondent

06, Feb, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
Your country needs you to fight fake news, UK journalists told
Defence minister says armed forces need specialist skills to counter cyber-propaganda

Jessica Elgot Political correspondent

01, May, 2018 @8:38 AM

Article image
British forces no longer fit for purpose, former UK service chiefs warn
Armed forces near breaking point with navy underfunded and air force at edge of capacity, Commons committee told

Ewen MacAskill Defence and intelligence correspondent

14, Nov, 2017 @3:13 PM

Article image
Robert Gates's attack on UK military spending is vague and opportunistic

The real question is not whether Britain is spending too little on defence, but whether it is spending too much

Ewen MacAskill, defence correspondent

16, Jan, 2014 @1:07 PM

Article image
Defence review: Cameron to announce new UK reconnaissance planes
Aircraft will plug gap widely seen as existing in British military security after 2010 SDSR scrapped RAF Nimrods

Ewen MacAskill and Richard Norton-Taylor

20, Nov, 2015 @6:25 PM

Article image
Gurkhas to be hit again as armed forces prepare to axe 4,500 jobs

Army expected to cut between 2,000 and 3,000 posts, RAF 1,000 and navy 500 in second tranche of redundancies

Nick Hopkins

12, Jan, 2012 @4:00 PM

Article image
Military chiefs call for reversal of defence cuts
Top brass warn 'swingeing cuts' have jeopardised Britain's defences as army prepares to announce further reductions

Nick Hopkins

06, Jan, 2013 @5:18 PM