On Thursday, Prime Minister of Britain, Boris Johnson, confirmed that most of the British troops have left Afghanistan, almost 20 years after the U.K. and other Western countries sent troops into the country to engage in the “war on terror.” In the statement, Boris went to say that the threat of Al-Qaida has been significantly diminished but he sidestepped questions about whether the hasty military exodus by his country and its NATO allies risks undoing the work of nearly two decades or leaves Afghanistan vulnerable to the Taliban, who have made rapid advances in many northern districts.
Citing security reasons, Johnson declined to provide any further details about the troop movements. But he said that “all British troops assigned to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan are now returning home,” adding that “most of our personnel have already left.” In recent weeks, most of the European and American troops have also withdrawn from the region.
We must be realistic about our ability alone to influence the course of events. It will take combined efforts of many nations, including Afghanistan’s neighbors, to help the Afghan people to build their future,” Johnson said. “But the threat that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place has been greatly diminished by the valor and by the sacrifice of the armed forces of Britain and many other countries.”
Johnson stressed the importance of peace in the region, saying that Britain is committed to achieving a peaceful settlement in Afghanistan through diplomacy. “We are not walking away. We are keeping our embassy in Kabul, and we will continue to work with our friends and allies, particularly with the government of Pakistan, to try to bring a settlement,” Johnson said. He also added that the country will continue to fund education, with a greater focus on girls’ schooling in Afghanistan. The U.K. will also back the Afghan government with over 100 million pounds ($138 million) in development aid this year and 58 million pounds for the Afghan security forces.
Over the past 20 years, a total of 150,000 British soldiers have served in Afghanistan. Of these, 457 have died, which is a much higher death rate compared to the country’s involvement in Iraq. Britain’s last combat troops left Afghanistan in October 2014, though about 750 remained as part of a NATO mission to train Afghan forces.
In April, President Joe Biden of the United States of America announced that the last 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. soldiers and 7,000 allied NATO soldiers would depart Afghanistan. On Tuesday the U.S. military said 90% of American troops and equipment had already left the country, with the drawdown set to finish by late August. US officials vacated, last week, the country’s biggest airfield, Bagram Air Base, the epicenter of the war to oust the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said the U.K. had been put in a “very difficult position” to continue the mission once the U.S. announced its decision to leave. Gen. Nick Carter, head of the British Armed Forces, said Thursday there was now a danger of “state collapse” as half of Afghanistan’s rural districts are now under Taliban control, but he said he did not believe the Taliban could gain complete control of the country.
He spoke about hope that the government of Afghanistan could work with the Taliban to reach a political settlement. “It is entirely possible that the Afghan government defeats the Taliban for long enough for the Taliban to realize that they have to talk,” he said. “I think the Taliban recognize that they can’t rule all of Afghanistan without a compromise.”