UK Prime Minister Theresa May has decided to increase the number of British troops in Afghanistan to over 1,000, as the NATO military alliance tries to meet the demands of US President Donald Trump.
Preparing to address an ongoing NATO summit in Brussels, May committed 440 more troops to the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan this week and urged other member-states to fulfill their commitment to spend two percent of their GDP on their militaries, just like the UK does.
“We will be deploying an additional 440 personnel to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and I think that shows when NATO calls, the UK is one of the first to step up,” May told reporters Wednesday, on the first day of the Brussels meeting.
Sources within the UK’s Ministry of Defense have expressed concern that Trump, who is also attending the NATO summit, would eventually pull American troops out of Eastern Europe and stop partaking in joint NATO drills unless all parties boost their contributions.
The UK is considering to deploy hundreds of more troops in Afghanistan.
May’s decision to increase troop levels marks the UK’s biggest military commitment to Afghanistan since 2014, the year then-PM David Cameron called back all British combat forces from a devastating US-led war that began in 2001.
Back then, London left a so-called support mission of 450 troops in the country to reportedly train local security forces. That contingency has grown in size ever since. According to The Guardian, the new deployment would make that mission even bigger.
The additional troops will initially be taken from the Welsh Guards, with around half of them arriving in Afghanistan in August and the rest to follow by February.
The western military alliance, NATO is set to boost its military presence in Afghanistan by sending 3,000 additional troops to the war-torn country.
In comparison, the US committed an extra 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in September 2017, bringing the total to 15,000.
NATO leaders are expected to discuss Afghanistan on Thursday, welcoming Afghan President Asharf Ghani who is in Brussels to attend the meeting on its second day.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg hopes members would agree to fund the Afghanistan mission until 2024. So far, funding has hovered around $1 billion a year and Stoltenberg says he expects that level to be met.
Trump’s military strategy for Afghanistan is another key topic of the summit. The American head of state revamped the approach last year to allow more air strikes to force Taliban militants to the negotiating table.