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Britain to keep 450 troops in Afghanistan through 2016

LONDON — Britain will extend the stay of about 450 soldiers in Afghanistan throughout 2016, the defense secretary said Tuesday following a similar announcement by the United States to extend its military presence there.

British military personnel will continue to carry out noncombat roles, including the training of the Afghan army and supporting NATO operations in Kabul, Michael Fallon said.

He said the decision follows a review of Britain's commitment "in light of the performance" of Afghan security forces and the overall security situation in Afghanistan. The soldiers were due to leave the country by the end of this year.

"The U.K. government recognized it would take time for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to develop into a fully fledged fighting force capable of providing complete security for the people of Afghanistan," Fallon said in a statement.

President Obama announced earlier this month that the U.S. will keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017, giving U.S. forces more time to train the Afghan army and keep up the hunt for remnants of the al-Qaida network.

Obama said security in Afghanistan remains fragile and could deteriorate in some places.

Britain, a partner in the U.S.-led coalition that fought the Taliban in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, formally ended its 13-year campaign in October 2014, though it kept several hundred soldiers there in advisory roles.

Almost 150,000 Britons served in the conflict, and 456 died.

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