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The unity government in Afghanistan is plagued by disputes, and recent military gains for the Taliban have undermined hoped that the Afghan National Security Forces could keep order in the country with little outside help. The provincial capital of Kunduz in the north briefly fell to the Taliban and the group has a presence across much of the country.

ISIS has gained a significant foothold in the east of the country and there are fears that the violence could spread to neighbouring Central Asia.

The US announced a slowdown in the withdrawal of troops, despite President Obama’s pledge to end US participation in the war. At the end of 2016, rather than the 1,000, based at the US embassy, that was the plan until the announcement, there will be 5,500. The current number of 9,800 will remain in Afghanistan, with commanders on the ground deciding when to bring the number down to 5,500.

Face-to-face peace talks in Pakistan in July were presented as a breakthrough but it is not clear that fighters and commanders on the ground favour negotiations. The second round of negotiations was postponed.

The Afghan government may have difficulty in paying for its security forces and other commitments, especially if aid is withdrawn sharply.

The UK withdrew its last combat troops in 2014 but is participating in NATO’s new Resolute Support mission, launched on 1 January 2015. The UK is contributing 470 personnel to Resolute Support. 162 of the 470 are working at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, on which the UK is spending £70-80 million from 2012 -16.

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