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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The United Kingdom contribution to the NATO KFOR mission of about 200 troops provides a highly effective force able to deploy across the whole of Kosovo. In addition, about 70 Ministry of Defence police officers are stationed in Kosovo, working with the United Nations interim administrative mission and the Kosovo police service on a wide range of international policing tasks.
Mr. Randall: I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he comment on reports that units are being deployed in Kosovo without some of their crucial experts, such as forward air controllers, because of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Mr. Ingram: No. We have a highly effective support mission in Kosovo and we shall always ensure that the equipment required for the task at hand is made available. Equipment can at all times be moved from one theatre to another, depending on need and demand, and such decisions are based on military assessment.
The hon. Gentleman should understand that, in the first instance, the military judgment will determine advice to Ministers. If the risk is too great, another judgment will have to be taken. That will be the case in Kosovo, as elsewhere.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): Has not the achievement of our forces in Kosovo and elsewhere in Europe, as well as in Africa, in peacekeeping been our military's supreme achievement of recent years, ensuring fewer deaths of civilians, especially women and children? Is not that the way forward for our military spendingwe probably have the best peacekeeping record of any armed force in the worldrather than one that is vested in the questionable cause of a new nuclear weapon?
Mr. Ingram: I think that my hon. Friend does not quite understand why we are so good at peacekeeping. We are also very good at all the other elements in which we involve our armed forces, not least of which is war fighting. We are among a few nations that trade across the spectrum. That means that our people move from one type of activity to another. We are exceptionally good at peacekeeping but we are also extremely good at peacemaking and war fighting.
The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid):
The security situation in Afghanistan is broadly stable, if sometimes, and in some places, fragile. Despite an upsurge in violence preceding the 18 September National Assembly elections, as anticipated, polling day was not significantly disrupted and many millions of Afghans were able to exercise their democratic will.
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Andrew Rosindell: I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. If, as I understand it, additional troops are to be sent to Afghanistanpossibly up to another 4,000can he tell us how much of the overseas deployment budget will remain for 200506?
John Reid: I cannot do so off the top of my head. The hon. Gentleman must recognise that the additional budget for operational deployment does not come from within the basic budget of the MOD. Operations are always a matter for discussion with the Treasury. Part of the ongoing discussions about the configuration of any force that would go into, for example, Helmand in southern Afghanistan would be subject to negotiations with our allies and negotiations within Government to ascertain how much money is affordable for which objectives.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend will know, 95 per cent. of the heroin on British streets comes from Afghanistan. British troops have played an important role in trying to ensure that the opium trade dies. Recently, British troops in Bosnia found large amounts of heroin that had come from Afghanistan. How are we ensuring that we follow the whole of the tradenot only the growing of the opium but its passage to the United Kingdomto ensure that it stops?
John Reid: My hon. Friend is right. There has been much discussion about an ethical foreign policy and a self-interested foreign policy. Foreign policy includes both those elements. We are in Afghanistan to ensure that terrorists do not have an unviable state to use as a launch platform for attacks against the west. It is in our interests to ensure that that is in the interests of the Afghans as well.
It is also in our direct interests to stem the trade in opium. As my hon. Friend says, 90 per cent. of the heroin on our streets derives from Afghanistan. I can tell him that I recently discussed this matter with colleagues in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan, including Presidents Karzai and Musharraf. It is of great interest to them as well as to us that the trade is stopped.
Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): As always, we can be extremely proud of the work of our troops in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq, in circumstances of great difficulty and danger. It is sad to hear that we lost a Harrier recently and that another one was damaged. Can the Secretary of State tell us what protection those Harriers had and what lessons we have learned?
John Reid: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, an inquiry is under way. It is always sad when the enemyin this case, terroristsare successful, and we will look at what lessons can be learned and whether greater protection can be given to what is, as he knows, a vital asset. I do not want to pre-empt the inquiry by giving opinions at this stage, so I hope that he accepts that I would rather wait until it has been concluded.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South)
(Lab): The deployment of British armed forces is central to achieving a secure Afghanistan, but what are the
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Government doing to ensure the integration of economic, social and financial developments, as they are significant if the future of Afghanistan is to be secure?
John Reid: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. If we are to deny the terrorists the Trojan horse of a failed state that could be used to attack us in the west, as elsewhere, it is not sufficient to defeat them or the Taliban temporarily. We have to build a viable and sustainable state in Afghanistan, and the people who can do so are the Afghans themselves, with our support. Military power is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient to defeat terrorism in the long term, so humanitarian aid, economic developments, judicial systems and the extension of true and uncorrupted political control beyond Kabul are essential additions to military power. We will have that very much in mind when we go into Helmand. If we manage to defeat the drug barons we must make sure that farmers who are dependent on the opium crop have alternative livelihoods. That is a perfect practical example of how military power without the accompanying civil and economic development will not achieve our ends.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): There was welcome progress in Afghanistan at the recent elections, but the security situation has become more perilous ahead of the extension of NATO's ISAF role. If the Secretary of State cannot yet confirm the number of British troops to be deployed, can he clarify whether counter-insurgency and peacekeeping roles are to be merged under NATO? If not, how close will the synergies be? Is it clear yet that the United States will supply additional troops to support the core peacekeeping responsibilities under ISAF?
John Reid: The short answer is that our direction in Afghanistan consists of three elements on the military side. First, we have already committed ourselves to taking the lead in the allied rapid reaction corps headquarters from May next year. Secondly, in principle, we want to extend the ISAF operation from the north and the west down to the south. We will go into Helmand province with our colleagues, and many nations wish to assist us. We have not finally decided the numbers, but I shall inform the hon. Gentleman and the House when we have done so. Thirdly, we want very close co-operation indeed between our operation and the Americans. It is not a complete merger for various reasons, but we want the closest possible synergy because, as I said, we cannot defeat terrorism by military means alone. Stabilisation and reconstruction are also needed, which is what ISAF and NATO, with ourselves in the lead, will undertake.
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)
(Con): Following that answer, if the NATO task is to be extended into counter-insurgency, which is inevitable if we move into the south as the Secretary of State described, is it not essential that our troops work under a single command? Can he therefore confirm categorically that any further attempts by others such as the French to create a split command between Operation Enduring Freedom in counter-insurgency and NATO in peacekeeping will be strongly resisted?
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John Reid: What is being suggested by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, in order to incorporate the greater synergy that I mentioned, is not a single chain of command. It is two potential chains of command, headed by one person who is double-hatted. It is possible to achieve far greater synergy without a single chain of command. How far we go in that direction is a matter for diplomatic and political discussion between all the allies, including the United States. That process is under way.
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