Britain will not desert Afghanistan and the Taliban will not regain a power base, a visiting British official said Tuesday amid reports that the UK will withdraw thousands of troops from the country next year.
British foreign service officer for Afghanistan Sayeeda Warsi told TOLOnews that Britain remained committed to the development of Afghanistan and the training of its armed forces after 2014.
“There is no way that things could go back to the way they were under the Taliban. Too much progress has been made,” Warsi said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
“Women have made huge strides. You look at the streets of Kabul and you see more girls going to schools than boys. Forty percent of students are girls,” she said, adding that those gains will not go in vain.
She also believes the Afghan security forces will be strong enough to defeat the Taliban and insurgents after the foreign combat troops leave.
“There will always an element of a security risk, but we believe that it is a security risk that can be managed by the Afghan security forces,” she said.
“What I do want to make clear is that our relationship with Afghanistan is not just linked to combat troops and when our combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014, we will have a presence in Afghanistan,” she added.
The British politician of Pakistan origins pointed out that the international community would not have pledged US$16 billion in aid if they were not sure about the stability of Afghanistan after 2014.
Warsi had earlier made similar comments at a press conference in Kabul saying that Britain was committed to its long-term agreement with Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops will not harm the bilateral relations.
“Our combat troops will not be here [in Afghanistan] after the end of 2014. That does not mean that our relationship in terms of support, ongoing training, ongoing development work, the huge parameters that have been dealt with in the enhanced strategic partnership, that relationship will continue and will endure. That’s why it’s called an enduring strategic partnership,” Warsi said Tuesday morning.
“We have strong relationships with both Afghanistan and Pakistan so we can play a major role in combating extremism. This can lead us to our common goal of bringing peace and stability to the country,” she added.
There are around 9,500 British soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly stationed in southern Helmand province.
On Sunday, British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said in a BBC interview that the country would withdraw 500 troops this year and thousands more next year.
“I would expect it will be significant, which means thousands, not hundreds, but I would not expect it to be the majority,” Hammond said of the numbers expected to withdraw.