UK to extend Afghanistan troops' stay, says Fallon

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The UK is to extend the stay of its troops in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has told MPs.

There are currently 450 British soldiers in Afghanistan, a level which will be maintained throughout 2016.

The Ministry of Defence said the move comes after a review of the UK's commitment "in light of the performance" of Afghan security forces.

The US has previously said it will maintain its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2016.

Britain ended combat operations in Afghanistan in October 2014, but kept troops in the country to advise and train Afghan security forces.

The defence secretary said that the government "recognised it would take time" for the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to "develop into a fully-fledged fighting force capable of providing complete security for the people of Afghanistan".

"We therefore made plans to review our commitment in light of its performance over the year and the overall security situation," Mr Fallon said in a statement to MPs.

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image captionMichael Fallon said the decision to keep troops in Afghanistan came after a planned review

He also said the scope and role of the UK mission remained unchanged.

"We will continue to help develop Afghanistan's future military leaders through our work at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, to build capacity within the Afghan security ministries, and to provide vital support to NATO operations in Kabul," he said.

"Both the US and our own decisions underline NATO's continued commitment to training and assisting Afghan forces as they grow stronger."

Mr Fallon also said he wished to record his "immense gratitude and admiration for all of our brave men and women who have served, or are currently serving, in Afghanistan".

He added: "We will never forget the ultimate sacrifice made by each and every one of the 456 members of the armed forces who have died during operations in Afghanistan."

President Obama said earlier this month that the US would keep 5,500 troops in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

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