Most British troops assigned to NATO mission have left, with the rest to come home shortly, PM Boris Johnson announces, as Taliban holds sway in northern Afghanistan.

British soldiers with NATO-led Resolute Support Mission arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan in this March 6, 2020 file photo.
British soldiers with NATO-led Resolute Support Mission arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan in this March 6, 2020 file photo. (Reuters)

Most British troops have been pulled out of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, ending Britain's official role in a two-decade-long conflict amid fears the departure of foreign soldiers could lead to a chaotic civil war.

"All British troops assigned to NATO's mission in Afghanistan are now returning home," Johnson said in a statement to parliament on Thursday.

"For obvious reasons, I will not disclose the timetable of our departure, though I can tell the house (Parliament) that most of our personnel have already left."

British forces were first deployed to Afghanistan in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks on the United States and played a major role in combat operations until 2014. 

A total of 457 British soldiers were killed in the country.

Violence has been raging throughout Afghanistan in the weeks since President Joe Biden announced troops would withdraw unconditionally by September 11.

The United States last week abandoned Bagram air base, the longtime staging ground for US military operations in the country, effectively ending America's longest war. 

The Pentagon says the withdrawal of US forces is 90 percent complete.

READ MORE: The Taliban is convincing Afghan forces not to fight them

'We are not about to turn away'

Johnson outlined the change to Britain's presence in Afghanistan, saying he did not underestimate the challenges facing the country and the government would continue to provide development assistance.

"I hope no one will leap to the false conclusion that the withdrawal of our forces somehow means the end of Britain's commitment to Afghanistan, we are not about to turn away, nor are we under any illusions about the perils of today's situation and what might lie ahead," Johnson told Parliament.

READ MORE: Afghan forces take back provincial capital Qala-e-Naw after Taliban assault

Afghanistan could descend into civil war

Meanwhile, the head of Britain's armed forces warned there is the possibility that Afghanistan could be on a path to civil war as American and other foreign troops leave.

Nick Carter, Britain's chief of the Defence Staff, speaking after it was announced most British soldiers have left Afghanistan, said it was "plausible" that the country's state would collapse without international forces there.

Afghanistan could see a situation like the country's 1990s civil war "where you would see a culture of warlordism and you might see some of the important institutions like security forces fracturing along ethnic, or for that matter, tribal lines," Carter said.

"If that were to happen, I guess the Taliban would control part of the country. But, of course, they would not control all of the country."

READ MORE: Tajikistan seeks help from Russian-led bloc as Taliban scales up fighting

Source: Reuters