Swift Afghanistan troop withdrawal loomed after Trump lost election — but some special forces could remain

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Kim Sengupta
·1 min read
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US soldiers over the dead body of an insurgent after a suicide attack in Afghanistan in 2013 (AFP via Getty Images)
US soldiers over the dead body of an insurgent after a suicide attack in Afghanistan in 2013 (AFP via Getty Images)

British military planners had expected to withdraw the bulk of the remaining UK troops in Afghanistan — around 750 — after Donald Trump lost the presidential election.

As Vice President, Joe Biden had been notably sceptical about the large-scale US presence in the country and had argued repeatedly against additional forces being sent in sizeable numbers for ‘surges’.

Almost all Nato troops in Afghanistan, along with those from Australia and New Zealand — just under 7,000 in total — are now expected to depart with the Americans by the symbolic date of 9/11.

However, it is possible that units of special forces, including British, will remain behind to support Afghan forces against the Taliban and its allies, as per the previous Trump withdrawal plan. The Pentagon is yet to comment on this issue.

US and British forces invaded Afghanistan together to overthrow the Taliban regime in 2001. After the Helmand deployment in 2006, the UK had the largest contingent of foreign troops in the country.

General Sir David Richards, now Baron Richards of Herstmonceux, became the first British commander since the Second World War to have American troops under his command when he became the head of Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) and General Sir Nick Carter commanded a large international force as commander in the south of the country, based in Kandahar.

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