British Forces should stay in Afghanistan until peace talks with the Taliban are over, peers warn today.
NATO troops’ presence is “essential to the Afghan government’s military strength and negotiating position”, a House of Lords Committee says.
The Government is also urged to shape its own policy on the war-torn nation rather than simply following America.
The committee calls on ministers to “urgently” engage with US President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House administration.
A total of 456 British servicemen and women were killed in Afghanistan from the start of the conflict to oust the Taliban in 2001.
UK troops withdrew from a combat role in December 2014.
But about a thousand British troops remain in advisory, monitoring and training roles with NATO – and peers want them to stay until peace talks in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban have concluded.
The House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee says in a report published today: “The ongoing presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan is essential to the Afghan government’s military strength and negotiating position at the talks in Doha.
“The report emphasises the urgency of UK engagement with the incoming Biden Administration on Afghanistan.
“The UK must make clear to the US and NATO allies the crucial role they play in maintaining the Afghan government’s leverage in the peace talks and must play in Afghanistan until a peace deal is reached.”
The committee claims the “UK has shown little inclination to exert an independent voice on policy on Afghanistan and has followed the lead of the US”.
Peers say there were “few traces of a coherent UK policy approach to Afghanistan” and urge “the UK to call for a multi-national approach to Afghanistan within NATO, focusing on the UK’s objectives of regional stability, counter-terrorism and countering narcotics production and trafficking”.
Committee chairwoman and Tory peer Baroness Joyce Anelay said: “This is a critical time for Afghanistan, with peace talks in Qatar having resumed over the weekend and an unacceptably high level of violence continuing to afflict an already poor and unstable country.
“The Government must engage urgently with the incoming Biden administration on the strategy for Afghanistan, and emphasise to the US and to NATO allies the importance of their ongoing presence in Afghanistan until a peace deal is reached.
“The Government should be front and centre in calling for a multinational approach to Afghanistan within NATO, addressing regional stability, counter-terrorism and countering narcotics production and trafficking.”
Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: “After all our Forces have sacrificed in Afghanistan, the UK and NATO must see the job through.
“The Government must urgently work with the incoming Biden administration to ensure any withdrawal is determined by conditions on the ground and doesn’t risk fresh terrorist threats.”