UK May Keep Special Forces in Afghanistan: Media

The British government is poised to keep a small special forces contingent on the ground in Afghanistan, The Telegraph has reported.

This comes as the US and its NATO allies pulled out of the coalition’s main base in Bagram district of Parwan province on Friday.

The UK is now reportedly considering the retention of an “advisory group” of elite special forces soldiers in the country, the report said.

Citing a former Special Air Service (SAS) soldier, who until recently was stationed in Afghanistan, The Telegraph reported that the group would “provide training to Afghan units and deploy with them on the ground as advisers.”

The deployment will be open-ended, they said, meaning the forces would stay “as long as [the government] continue to see value” in having them stationed there.

The decision whether to withdraw all the UK’s remaining 750 soldiers from Afghanistan for good or leave some troops behind amid the Taliban’s ongoing offensive is yet to be made, a senior military source told the paper.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has the final say on the matter, is expected to make an announcement at the National Security Council meeting on Monday.

Earlier reports in the UK media suggested that British troops might exit Afghanistan by July 4.

Officials in the UK, however, did not commit to a certain timeframe, saying that London “reserves the right” to dispatch troops back to Afghanistan, either as part of a coalition or unilaterally, if parts of the country are overrun by terrorists, the report added.

In the meantime, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, said the potential for extremist groups to be able to regenerate in Afghanistan as US and British troops leave the territory would pose an international threat.

Alex Younger told Sky News that if such groups were allowed to regenerate in Afghanistan following the departure of the international forces, “it will lead to more threat on the shores of our country and our allies.”

Lord Richard Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009 said Britain’s mistake had been to allow itself to be diverted into Iraq in 2003 instead of investing in the future of Afghanistan.

“This is generally going to be a civil war, an internal struggle, and it’s up to the Afghan people to decide do they want to go back under the Taliban or do they want to live that better life that we’ve shown them glimpses of,” he told Sky News on Monday.