The British military presence in Afghanistan began in 2001 as part of a NATO operation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
“NATO assembled one of the largest coalitions in history to serve in Afghanistan. Our troops went into Afghanistan together, we have adjusted together, and now we are leaving together,” the trans-Atlantic military alliance said in a statement issued on Wednesday evening.
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 14, 2021
The UK Ministry of Defence issued statements following the NATO announcement.
“The people of Afghanistan deserve a peaceful and stable future,” UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement.
“As we drawdown, the security of our people currently serving in Afghanistan remains our priority and we have been clear that attacks on Allied troops will be met with a forceful response.
“The British public and our Armed Forces community, both serving and veterans, will have lasting memories of our time in Afghanistan. Most importantly we must remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, who will never be forgotten.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK is standing with NATO and the people of Afghanistan “to support a more stable, peaceful future for the country, and the wider region.”
“We will support an orderly departure of our forces, whilst building up Afghanistan’s capacity for self-governance, and continuing counter-terrorism support—to protect the gains made over the last 20 years,” he said in a statement.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
He said that it is now “time to end America’s longest war” and “time for American troops to come home.”
His predecessor, former President Donald Trump, attempted several times to draw down troop levels.
Last year, Trump announced an agreement with the Taliban, saying troops would withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1.
NATO said the drawdown will be “orderly, coordinated, and deliberate” and any Taliban attacks on Allied troops during the withdrawal will be met with “a forceful response.”
The alliance said it will “continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” and urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to “adhere to their commitments to the peace process initiated by the U.S.-Taliban agreement and the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration.”
“NATO Allies and partners will continue to stand with Afghanistan, its people, and its institutions in promoting security and upholding the gains of the last 20 years,” said the NATO statement.
“Withdrawing our troops does not mean ending our relationship with Afghanistan. Rather, this will be the start of a new chapter.”
Jack Philips contributed to this report.