Alistair Bunkall, Defence Correspondent — Sky News Feb 19, 2018
Britain should commit more troops to help stabilise Afghanistan and be prepared to remain in the country for many more years, a former Head of the British Armed Forces has said.
Speaking to Sky News, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux said the UK should support the recent American surge ordered by US President Donald Trump to deal with a resurgent Taliban.
“I think we should be much more involved in the support role,” Lord Richards said.
“The sort of things that the Americans are asking of us, we should be prepared to step up to the mark on.
“I think it’s time to just remember that the Afghan people have fought a war on our behalf, to prevent terrorism from striking us, with us, and we owe them something in return and not give up just because it’s not going very well.”
Lord Richards, who was also the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2008, said the UK could offer air and logistical support to its American partners.
The US and Britain first invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 in response to the 9/11 attacks.
The initial mission to get rid of the Taliban and to stop Afghanistan harbouring al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden was swift and it was successful.
Seventeen years later around 600 British troops remain in the country, most in a training role.
“That initial campaign was stunning in its simplicity and its success,” said General Richards.
“In under two months, the Taliban were gone. If you’re looking for models for future generations of soldiers to look at, I think that’s got to be one of them.”
His comments are supported by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary General between 2009 and 2014 who also believes the alliance must be ready to help Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.
“I think it is a worrying situation. And I fully support the NATO efforts to strengthen the training mission with a view to increasing the capability of the Afghan security forces to take care of their own security.
“What we need now is to maintain a sizeable force, NATO force, to help the Afghans when it comes to security.”
Britain’s combat role officially came to an end in October 2014 when the Union flag was lowered over Camp Bastion.
British Special Forces are still very active in the country but the majority of Britain’s public contribution is in the running of the officer training academy in Kabul.
The US military presence is nothing like as large as it was, but significantly, it is growing again.
Last year President Trump sent another 3,000 US troops to Afghanistan and a further 1,000 are expected to join them this year.