British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on the 19th that UK may follow the US to reduce the number of British Army in Afghanistan.
“The United States will not completely withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, nor will the United Kingdom do so,” Wallace told the British Sky News Channel. I think if they [the United States] cut back at some point, we will also reduce staff.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller confirmed on the 17th that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by mid-January next year.
The current U.S. military in Afghanistan is about 4,500. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, etc., questioned the above practice.
Britain is the main ally of the United States in the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, and “follow” or “do not follow” has attracted public attention.
Wallace admitted that the United States is Britain’s largest ally, and Britain has limited space for independent action. At present, he and the Treasury Department have reached some consensus to obtain more funds, which is expected to give Britain more options in the future.
“Part of the defense consideration is how Britain can be more independent and how we (the United Kingdom and the United States) can complement each other in international affairs,” Wallace said. “But now, if the United States unilaterally withdraws from certain countries, Britain will face challenges.”
In echo with Wallace’s statement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on the 19th that he would define Britain’s international role after leaving the European Union as “defense first”.
In an online speech to the lower house of parliament, Johnson announced an increase of 16.5 billion pounds in defense spending over the next four years, the largest increase since the end of the cold war. The current annual defense budget of the United Kingdom is nearly 42 billion pounds.
Reuters quoted Johnson as saying: “The international situation is more difficult and competitive than ever since the Cold War. Britain must be loyal to its own history and maintain a common position with its allies. To achieve this, we need to improve our capabilities across the board.”
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Miller welcomed Britain’s increase in defense spending: “The United Kingdom is our strongest and most capable ally. The increase in defense spending shows their commitment to NATO and our common security. With the increase in spending, the British army will remain one of the most elite fighting forces in the world.
The UK is the country with the largest defense expenditure in Europe, second only to the United States in NATO. The British government said that the British position would be consolidated after increased spending.
However, Johnson did not specify the “come” of the money. British media reported that the government intends to cut billions of pounds in foreign aid. In an interview with Sky News, Wallace denied this possibility, saying that increasing defense spending does not mean giving up foreign aid.