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Troops in Afghanistan: April 2018 update

Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Approximately 650 UK armed forces personnel are deployed in Afghanistan in support of NATO's Resolute Support mission.

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NATO's Resolute Support mission is to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and institutions.

NATO has increased troop numbers since the Resolute Support mission began in January 2015. Troop levels will rise to around 16,000 in 2018 to combat what is described as a ‘challenging situation’. The percentage of districts under insurgent control or influence has doubled since 2015. The UN reported over 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, over half of which were attributed to the Taliban. The US has significantly increased the number of airstrikes since President Trump unveiled a new South Asia Strategy last August, releasing more weapons in 2017 than in any year since 2012.

A new role for NATO

NATO began a new, non-combat mission in Afghanistan on 1 January 2015. This is the Resolute Support Mission to train and support Afghan National Defence and Security Forces. The Mission has no set end date.

The number of troops deployed to the Resolute Support mission has steadily increased. Defence ministers agreed in November 2017 to increase troop levels from around 13,000 to around 16,000 troops in 2018. The current 50/50 split between US and non-US troops is expected to continue in 2018.

UK troop numbers

The UK's name for its operation in Afghanistan is Operation Toral. The number of deployed personnel now stands at about 650. The Government has increased troop levels on three occasions since 2016, most recently in November 2017.

UK forces have two major tasks: training and mentoring the ANDSF, with a specific role with the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, and providing force protection for NATO advisors via the Kabul Security Force/Kabul Protection Unit. The RAF has also deployed Puma helicopters in support of the latter.

Two British personnel have died while deployed on Op Toral, in a helicopter crash in October 2015.

Security situation

The security situation remains challenging. 12% of the population is estimated to live in districts under insurgent control or influence. Insurgents are estimated to control or influence 58 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, as of October 2017. Afghan Government control or influence of districts has declined since 2015.

There were 10,453 civilian casualties in 2017 (3,438 deaths), two thirds of which were attributed to anti-governemnt elements, mainly the Taliban and ISIS-Khorasan. The UN Secretary-General describes the security situation as "highly unstable".

The US rhas significantly increased its use of airstrikes. The US Air Force released more weapons in 2017 than any year since 2012 and airstrikes continue their heavy tempo in 2018.

 

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8292

Author: Louisa Brooke-Holland

Topics: Afghanistan, Armed forces, Military operations

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