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UK to maintain military presence in Afghanistan

Britain will maintain its presence of around 450 troops. Credit: PA

The UK should maintain is to maintain its current military mission in Afghanistan in 2016, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said.

The commitment means around 450 troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least another year.

Making the announcement in a written statement, Fallon said Afghan forces had "shown themselves to be an increasingly professional, competent and dedicated fighting force", but said it would take time for them to provide "complete security" to the nation alone.

We therefore made plans to review our commitment in light of its performance over the year and the overall security situation.

I would like to inform the House that we have now concluded that we should maintain the scale of the UK’s current military mission in the country in 2016, to help build a secure and stable Afghanistan.

The scope and role of the UK mission are unchanged.

– Michael Fallon

The decision follows President Obama’s announcement on 15 October that the US is delaying the drawdown of its troops.

Obama to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan after 2016

President Obama has reversed plans to bring home the vast majority of US troops in Afghanistan at the end of 2016, with more than half of the current deployment of 9,800 troops set to remain in the country, NBC News has reported.

Mr Obama had originally hoped to leave 1,000 troops to solely protect the American embassy in Kabul after declaring the war in Afghanistan to be over.

President Obama, who hosted Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani at the White House in March, has effectively abandoned his goal to bring home almost all US troops before leaving office. Credit: Reuters

But after several months of discussions, including with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani, Mr Obama has accepted the military and political consensus is to keep a presence of 5,500 troops beyond next year to fight the twin threats from al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Senior White House officials told NBC News the short-lived loss of the city of Kunduz to militants was not the main factor in Mr Obama's decision - which will be officially announced later - but confirmed they were watching Kunduz closely.

The additional troops will be housed at bases in Bagram, Jalalabad, and Kandahar and continue to operate a "limited mission" of counter-terrorism alongside the training of Afghan forces at an additional cost of around $4.6 billion (£3 billion).


MSF calls for independent probe into US hospital strike

Dr. Joanne Liu spoke with President Obama on the phone. Credit: Reuters

The president of Medecins Sans Frontieres has reiterated the organisation's call for an independent investigation into the US air strike which accidentally killed 22 people at a hospital in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama called Dr. Joanne Liu on Wednesday to apologise for the strike on the charity's hospital in Kunduz

Following the call, Dr Liu said: "We reiterate our ask that the US government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened."

Obama apologises for Afghan hospital bombing

President Obama telephoned the head of Médecins sans Frontières and apologized for a deadly air strike on the aid group's hospital in Kunduz Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

US President Barack Obama has apologised to medical charity Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) following the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan.

President Obama also called Afghanistan's president to express his condolences after the US air strike killed 22 people.

The White House said the President spoke with MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu.

"During the call, President Obama expressed regret over the tragic incident and offered his thoughts and prayers on behalf of the American people to the victims, their families, and loved ones," a White House spokesman said.

"The President assured Dr. Liu of his expectation that the Department of Defense investigation currently underway would provide a transparent, thorough, and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident and pledged full cooperation with the joint investigations being conducted with NATO and the Afghan Government."


MSF considering criminal charges over Kunduz bombing

Medical aid group Medicens Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said it would consider seeking criminal charges following the bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan's Kunduz on Saturday.

Speaking during a press conference this morning MSF officials also said they would be demanding an independent investigation into the air strike which led to the death of 22 people and was "an attack on the Geneva conventions".

Kundaz's MSF run hospital was reportedly hit as many as five times in an hour by US led air strikes. American commanders have said the medical facility was "mistakenly struck" and was not a target.

US commander: Air strike on hospital in Kunduz was a mistake

General John Campbell Credit: AP

The top US commander in Afghanistan says the recent air strike on a hospital in the northern city of Kunduz was a mistake.

General John Campbell told the US Senate armed services committee that it was a US decision to conduct the air strike and that the hospital was "mistakenly struck".

Gen Campbell's evidence came three days after the air strike on the medical clinic killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens more.

The clinic was operated by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Gen Campbell said on Monday that the air strike was requested by Afghan forces who reported being under Taliban fire.

US military: Taliban fighting put MSF hospital at risk

A boy is treated after the attack in Kunduz Credit: APTV

The United States military has expressed "deepest condolences" to the civilians killed in an airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Pentagon official General John Campbell says that Afghan forces said they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support.

General Campbell said the Taliban for "fighting within the city" that put civilians in harm's way, and US advice and air support would still be available for Afghan forces despite the tragedy.

"We have now learned that on 3rd October Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," Campbell said. "An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck."

He did not specify if the air strike had struck the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital.

The deadly air strike on Saturday killed 22 people when it hit the medical facility.

Investigations by Nato and Afghan forces will be carried out, Campbell said.

MSF urges independent probe into Kunduz attack

A boy is treated after the attack in Kunduz. Credit: APTV

Medical aid group Medicens Sans Frontieres (MSF) has called for an "independent international body" to investigate the air strike that killed 22 people at its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," Christopher Stokes, MSF General Director said.

The group earlier denied that Taliban fighters were firing from its hospital at Afghan and Nato forces before the strike, which is thought to have been carried out by US planes.

MSF also updated the death toll from the attack, saying that 12 staff member and ten patients were killed, including three children.

We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.

We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.

– Christopher Stokes, MSF General Director
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