Britain's 450-troop contingent in Afghanistan will remain throughout next year, the country's defense secretary has announced. The shift echoes a recent US commitment to stay and strengthen Afghan defense capacity.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon submitted a statement on Tuesday that committed to "maintain the scale of the UK's current military mission" in order to "help build a secure and stable Afghanistan."
Britain had formally ended its campaign in Afghanistan last October, and soldiers were due to leave by the end of this year.
The decision comes less than two weeks after US President Barack Obama announced he would halve a dramatic drawdown of forces and maintain 5,500 US troops in Afghanistan until the end of his presidency in 2017.
With the Taliban gaining steam in Afghanistan - recently seizing the city of Kunduz for a short while - fear has intensified that a withdrawal could lead to a violent instability similar to that of Iraq.
The UK is assuming its responsibility to "develop a fully-fledged fighting force capable of providing complete security for the people of Afghanistan," Defense Secretary Fallon added.
Reviews of Afghanistan's own security capacity to stave off challenges to the NATO-backed Afghani regime have been discouraging, the statement claimed.
Its troops will continue to carry out noncombat roles. This includes training Afghan army officers, building the capacity the country's security ministries, and supporting NATO operations in the capital, Kabul.
jtm/jil (AFP, AP)