Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Second memorandum from the Ministry of Defence

The attitude of the people towards the International military presence inside Afghanistan


The command and control relationship between the ISAF and OEF missions

  1.  Command and Control (C2) in Afghanistan is currently exercised by two separate Headquarters (HQs), one for ISAF operations in the North and West and the other for US-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) (which covers the South and East, and all Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations). Coordination and deconfliction of operations is ensured by the placement of liaison officers from each HQ in the other. Once NATO forces are fully in place in the South (Stage 3 area), C2 for that geographical area will transfer to HQ ISAF. The next step, in accordance with the agreed NATO operational plan, would be for the East (Stage 4) to be transferred to ISAF C2, at which point the whole of Afghanistan will be under NATO command for all operations except CT, no decision on Stage 4 has however been taken.

  2.  The detailed C2 organisation once both Stages 3 and 4 are complete remains to be finalised, although the broad principles have been agreed. The single NATO HQ in Afghanistan will command all ISAF forces conducting security and stabilisation operations. It is likely that the Commander will have two or three deputies, one of whom will be a US officer who will be "double-hatted" with responsibilities for US-led Counter-Terrorism (CT) operations in Afghanistan in addition to his ISAF role; he would be responsible to USCENTCOM for CT operations, since CT is not part of the ISAF mission. This C2 arrangement will clearly offer advantages in terms of coordination and deconfliction, not least through the collocation of commanders and staff working on each type of operation.

  3.  In terms of C2 for fixed-wing air support, the arrangements post Stage 3 and 4 expansion will accord with well-established principles and doctrine for Air C2, which are designed to ensure that the inherent responsiveness, flexibility and range of air power is utilised to best effect. HQ ISAF's air department will prioritise and designate the tasking for ISAF aircraft. To ensure the safe deconfliction and coordination of all air operations over Afghanistan (including any supporting CT operations), this tasking and the overall airspace plan will be issued from the regional Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Qatar, which will contain an embedded team from HQ ISAF. A further benefit of using the CAOC for coordination is that, since it has responsibilities for air operations across the wider region (including air operations in Iraq), it has the ability to reprioritise the allocation of long-range aircraft to provide additional support from non-ISAF aircraft to high-priority ISAF operations should that be required. Clearly, air support for the protection of friendly forces on the ground would always be a top priority mission; aircraft will be diverted from other tasks to assist "troops in contact" when required and other aircraft will also be held on short-notice "ground alert" for such missions.

Clarification of the UK's policies and responsibilities towards people arrested during military operations. In particular whether people detained by ISAF forces have been, and will be in future, handed over to US control

  4.  The legal authority for troops deployed under the ISAF to arrest and detain derives from a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, most recently UNSCR 1623 (2005), and by agreement with the Government of Afghanistan. These contain authorisations permitting use of all necessary measures to fulfil the ISAF's mission. ISAF policy, agreed by NATO, is that individuals should be transferred to the Afghan authorities at the first opportunity and within 96 hours, or released. Counter-terrorism is not an ISAF task.

  5.  NATO Rules of Engagement set out the circumstances in which individuals may be detained by ISAF troops, but do not cover their subsequent handling. As has been the policy of successive governments, we are unable to comment further on the Rules of Engagement under which our forces or those of other NATO Allies deploy, as this may compromise the safety of our troops.

  6.  Work continues within NATO on clarification of detention issues, in discussion with the Afghan government, as NATO prepares for expansion beyond the North and West of Afghanistan. Handling of detainees after detention is a matter for individual states to negotiate with the Afghan Government as appropriate.

  7.  Since 2001 we have detained in Afghanistan on very few occasions, and all individuals were subsequently released. The UK has not transferred any detainee to the Afghan authorities or into the custody of US forces, and there are currently no individuals being detained under UK authority in Afghanistan. Current UK policy is not to detain individuals unless absolutely necessary; and indeed it has rarely been necessary to do so in ISAF's current area of operation.

  8.  Nevertheless, we recognise the possibility that, as we expand ISAF into the more challenging security environment in the south, British troops may more often be exposed to situations in which it becomes necessary temporarily to detain individuals. In such cases the NATO agreed policy of releasing or handing over suspects in as short a time as possible and within 96 hours to the Afghan authorities will still apply. The UK is currently discussing arrangements with the Government of Afghanistan which will cover the possible future transfer of any individual to the Afghan Authorities following detention by UK forces.

  9.  As the Committee is aware, we have deployed troops to prepare the ground for the future UK deployment to Helmand Province. They are under Coalition rather than ISAF command but should the need arise for them to arrest and detain an individual the same UK principles and guidelines on prisoner handling would apply to them as apply to British troops deployed under the ISAF.

The structure and funding of the Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit

  10.  As the lead G8 nation, the UK is co-ordinating international efforts to assist the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) to tackle the counter narcotics (CN) trade. Essential to this is the delivery of the GoA's updated National Drugs Control Strategy (NDCS), which was officially launched at the London Conference on Afghanistan (31 January-1 February). The NCDS sets out the GoA's CN policies over the next three years and highlights four key priorities where activity is likely to make the greatest impact in the short-term, namely:

    —    Targeting the trafficker and the trade.

    —    Strengthening and diversifing legal rural livelihoods.

    —    Developing effective CN institutions.

    —    Demand reduction.

  11.  The Afghan Drug Inter-Departmental Unit (ADIDU), based in the UK, and the British Embassy Drugs Team (BEDT) based in Afghanistan, were set up to co-ordinate our activity. Reporting monthly to the Prime Minister, they work closely with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to deliver progress against the NDCS. ADIDU and BEDT include staff from other government departments, including HM Revenue and Customs, Department for International Development, the Home Office, and the Ministry of Defence and Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA). The MOD currently funds two members of the ADIDU.

Harmony guidelines on back-to-back tours identifying which trades are most at risk of having their harmony guidelines breached if the Afghanistan deployment is increased according to current plans

  12.  The Department's ability to achieve Harmony Guidelines, including separated service assumptions, is dependent upon the level of operational activity the Armed Forces are asked to undertake. Harmony is assessed as a trend over time using the time between operational tours—Tour Interval. Having taken into account present deployments in Iraq and the planned increase in deployments in Afghanistan, on average the Infantry, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers and Royal Signals will be approximately 20% deployed. An average of 20% deployed results in an average Tour Interval of 24 months—which is of course the "Harmony" target.

  However, in 2006, as we increase our scale of effort in Afghanistan, tour intervals are likely to breach harmony levels in some areas such as medical, intelligence, helicopter crews, logistic, provost and engineers. We continue to encourage appropriate contributions from our NATO Allies in Afghanistan in order to take some of the pressure off these areas.

  Overall, we judge that the impact on our planned deployment to Afghanistan and on readiness for future operations is manageable.

What has been the cost of Operation Herrick in Afghanistan in financial years 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05 and what is the projected cost for 2005-06 and 2006-07?

  13.  The total additional cost for the MOD's deployment to Afghanistan for 2004-05 was £67 million. The equivalent costs for previous years were: £311 million in 2002-03; and £46 million in 2003-04. We do not release the detail of projected figures they will be made available at the end of the financial year in accordance with standard MOD procedures. Overall we expect UK deployments in Afghanistan to cost around £1 billion over five years, commencing in the current financial year.

What is the MODs assessment of how effectively PRTs are extending the reach of the Afghan government beyond Kabul?

  14.  There is no fixed template for a PRT. Each is tailored to the prevailing security situation, socio-economic conditions, terrain, and reach of the Government of Afghanistan. Distinctions between the activities of PRTs are most obvious in relation to development, humanitarian and reconstruction activity. Generally, the UK does not support PRTs providing direct humanitarian assistance as this may lead to confusion about the PRT's primary role. However, the UK accepts that there may be areas of Afghanistan and situations in which this would be appropriate.

  15.  The UK PRT has successfully supported local disarmament initiatives, brokered by UNAMA, lobbied local factional leaders to engage constructively in the process, and monitored their compliance. Such initiatives have included the return of weaponry to arsenals while allowing the local non-militia population to register and keep personal weapons.

  16.  The PRT has played an active role in assisting the central government and the UK Ambassador in brokering solutions to local conflicts, including arrangement of cease-fires following clashes between militias in the north. The PRTs provide practical support from facilitating negotiations to providing transport to ensure the authority of the central government is reinforced during regional crisis.

  17.  The PRT has established good relations with NGOs active in its area. This has done much to dispel initial concerns from within the assistance community that the UK PRT would attempt to militarize development aid and blur the line between military and humanitarian activity. The PRT has made clear that it seeks neither to control nor co-ordinate development work. It does not task its military element with humanitarian assistance work. Instead, and through continuing dialogue and liaison with all regional actors, it seeks to facilitate the reconstruction effort. The DFID representative in the PRT has a fund to support a number of projects, all of which are carefully selected to avoid cutting across the core areas of work undertaken by NGOs, and to support the three basic objectives of the PRT. Activities funded have included a range of specific reconstruction projects including re-building police and judicial facilities, capacity-building of public institutions, a public library, and support for 700 poor families.

  18.  The UK PRT is increasingly becoming involved in police reform, recognising the risk of an accelerating Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration process creating a security vacuum. This involvement has taken several forms. After a disarmament initiative in the Shulgareh Valley in August 2003, the PRT helped to support the local police force through the provision of basic equipment and continued mentoring. The PRT remains closely involved in supporting the 300 Afghan national policemen deployed from Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif in October 2003 to overcome the factional nature of the existing force. The UK funds five UK police advisers/mentors to work alongside US colleagues at the Regional Police Training College in Mazar. This has led to close liaison between the PRT, in particular the FCO and DFID representatives and police advisers, and local police authorities, to explore how the trained recruits might be most effectively deployed across the region. ANA and local police elements now routinely conduct joint patrols in the region. There is clear evidence to suggest that this action has reduced levels of banditry in previously notorious areas. It has also won the support of the local population, which clearly appreciates the effective presence of indigenous, centralised security institutions.

Which government department is responsible for activity in UK led PRTs? And how is the work of of MOD,DFID, FCO and civilian agencies co-ordinated?

  19.  The UK/ISAF PRT model is the first PRT to formalise the link between political, development and military actors. Effectively there is a joint command team comprising the PRT Commander (MOD), a Political Adviser (FCO) and a Development Adviser (DFID). This team are jointly responsible for activity in the PRT, and seek to integrate activities at an operational level. Each department is assigned lead responsibility for certain areas of work, to ensure that reporting lines, accountability and monitoring is effectively carried out. The Helmand PRT will see the MOD leading on most of the security related work, FCO leading on elements of governance and DFID leading on economic development.

What funds have been spent on development work in UK PRTs since 2003? What is the mixture of Government/aid agency money spent on PRTs?

  20.  The UK PRTs have not undertaken development work; instead they work on stabilisation activities, which may be in the security, governance or development sectors, in order to enable a more permissive environment for development work to take place. DFID has been supporting the work of PRTs since 2003 through providing expert development advice to PRT command teams and supplying a small budget for quick impact development activities to the Development Adviser. To date DFID has spent approximately £2 million in this way. DFID funding to PRTs is currently one of the only sources of funding for PRTs to carry out quick impact activities.

  The Government of Afghanistan do not deliver development assistance through PRTs; rather they employ implementing partners in the provinces. Similarly the aid community do not work directly with PRTs, and in many areas are not present in the environments in which PRTs work as a result of the security situation.

How do these funds compare to those spent in US controlled PRTs? What development money has been spent in Helmand province while under US control? Will this level of expenditure be maintained when Helmand PRT is the responsibility of the UK?

  21.  US PRTs have a different approach to stabilisation, focusing on explicit force protection or consent activities. Several pools of funding exist in US PRTs; these include US Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP), USAID's QIP programme and the Defence Department's Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Aid Programme (OHDACA). Funding levels vary from PRT to PRT.

  22.   In Helmand province US CERP has spent some US$5.4 million, with an additional US$4.2 million allocated for existing projects and up to US$5.4 million more committed. USAID have allocated US$88.45m to Helmand for development activities over three years. The impact of US spend is uncertain and actual disbursement of US funds is lower than their allocation.

  23.  The UK plans to direct substantial funds to the Helmand province, mainly through other mechanisms than the PRT (primarily through the Government of Afghanistan's National Programmes, for labour intensive public works, small loans and rural infrastructure). A key difference will be that US spend to Helmand has concentrated on immediate and direct impact (not channelled through the GoA) whereas the UK will direct the vast proportion of our money through the government. This will help ensure international support is properly coordinated with Afghanistan's national development strategy and needs, and will also help to build the capacity of the GoA, thereby helping bring about conditions in which international forces can disengage.

14 February 2006

50   Asterisks in the memorandum denote that part of the document has not been reported, at the request of the MoD and with the agreement of the Committee. Back

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