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The instability of Pakistan is also of increasing concern—it is very real and obvious. The threat to Pakistan posed by militancy and terrorism is very severe. Last year alone, internal violence killed 2,000 people in Pakistan. We strongly welcome the current action being taken by the Pakistani Government to address the terrorist problem within their borders, where most violent extremist organisations in Pakistan, including al-Qaeda, operate. Effective security co-operation on both sides of the Durand line is therefore essential for success. UK and ISAF forces would benefit directly from improved border controls that constrained the flow of insurgents in and out of Afghanistan.

However, we must remember that Pakistan is rightly a proud and sovereign nation. It is Pakistan’s responsibility to act against the threat of extremism and when it does, we will continue to offer our assistance.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) (Con): What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Foreign Secretary about the potential for the new Indian Government to help the situation in Pakistan by reducing tensions along the border?

Mr. Hutton: I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend about that, and I am happy to brief the hon. Gentleman about our current thinking. There are opportunities for tensions to be eased, but the essential condition for that will be action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Pakistan who have still not been brought to justice. I am afraid to say that at the moment, there is little evidence that they will be any time soon. That would be a significant step for Pakistan to take, and we would strongly support and encourage it to do so.

We should maintain our constructive dialogue with Pakistan’s military and help them to combat the insurgency more effectively. We are also supporting financially the efforts of the Pakistan Government to improve the education of its population in the federally administered tribal areas, which is fundamental to removing the insurgents’ ability to exploit local people for unbelievably horrific ends such as suicide bombings.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): I am very pleased to hear what the Secretary of State is saying about helping education in Pakistan. One thing that I have bemoaned in this country is that we spend only something like 2 per cent. of our gross domestic product on defence, but in Pakistan they spend only 2 per cent. of theirs on education. The Pakistanis need to consider that carefully, because it is extremely important.

Mr. Hutton: I strongly agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is ultimately for the Pakistan Government to address their internal priorities and how they wish to spend their resources, but there is undoubtedly a strong view that education needs to be addressed now. If it is not addressed in a co-ordinated and serious way, that will simply allow extremist organisations to take over responsibility for educating young Pakistani boys and girls. I am afraid that that will lead to only one consequence.

Barry Gardiner: My right hon. Friend is being most indulgent in giving way to Members of all parties. Has he had any discussions with the Pakistani Government
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about the release of Hafiz Sayeed, who was the chief accused of the Mumbai bombings and was in captivity in Pakistan? Does that not betoken a reluctance on the part of the Pakistan Government to pursue these measures with the vigour that we all wish to see?

Mr. Hutton: I have not had any discussion with my opposite number in Pakistan about that, because those are primarily matters for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to pursue through the normal diplomatic channels. I am sure that if there were a representative of the Pakistan Government here today, he or she would say that the release was a decision of an independent judicial authority, and that it was the actions of the Pakistan Government that led to that individual’s initial detention because of the allegations that he was associated with the crimes committed in Mumbai. Whatever the legal or constitutional position, there is no doubt that a very serious crime took place. Nor is there any doubt in our mind that Lashkar-e-Taiba, acting in Pakistan, was directly responsible for that crime, and action must be taken.

Although current operations inevitably shape our defence posture today, I wish to concentrate my remaining remarks on how we can prepare ourselves for the future. We all agree that the world is changing rapidly around us and that we must be both well prepared for changes and willing and able to adapt to them. The UK has an active international role and presence, and we must take into account the global trends that will shape our future. Two trends stand out to me.

First, ours is now clearly a more connected world. Increased globalisation means increased interdependency, and we must be open to that. Our linkages to the world are essential to the UK’s prosperity and success, and this is no time for protectionism. But global freedoms and connections clearly create vulnerabilities—take, for example, the global economic crisis, the shared problems of insurgency, terrorism, violent extremism and the drug trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the emerging threats of piracy and cyber attack.

Secondly, it is pretty clear now that we are seeing a shift in the balance of power globally. More states have a voice, through greater economic power or strategic importance. Decision making in the world will therefore be more complex and we will need more innovative approaches if we are to achieve peace and prosperity. We talk more today of the G20 than we do of the G7 or G8. China, Brazil and India all have increasing global influence to match their rapidly expanding economies.

So what are the new security challenges that we face in this age of risk and uncertainty? We certainly face a new form of terrorist threat that is transnational and employs extreme and indiscriminate violence. Terrorists who claim to act in the name of Islam seek to pose an enduring threat to our national security interests. Tackling terrorist and other non-state threats is set to be the most likely use of our armed forces for the foreseeable future. That requires not simply a counter-insurgency response but a multi-faceted and multi-agency approach, with new capabilities that can help us in the work not just of security but of reconstruction and good governance.

North Korea’s recent nuclear test is another reminder that proliferation has major security impacts. Belligerence coupled with weapons of mass destruction capabilities has regional and global significance. In addition to
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states, the continuing risk that terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors will get WMD technology is incredibly serious when we live in an era of mass casualty attacks and suicide bombing.

The risks of weak or failing states are also clear. Economic and political weaknesses exacerbate factionalism and often provoke conflict. Supporting sound leadership in vulnerable countries and international approaches to reversing downward spirals of decay will be crucial. As the UK is an internationally engaged power, its domestic security interests depend on effective and efficient international organisations. If organisations such as the United Nations, the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organisation are to remain effective, they must respond rapidly to global changes. The same goes for the organisations that protect and serve the people of Europe—NATO and the European Union. They must all adapt the way in which they work and the speed of their responses. Because legitimacy is crucial to effectiveness, they must also change to give the rising powers a proper voice and influence.

Given those enduring and emerging security challenges, it is right that there should be debate now on the changing characteristics of conflict and how our forces should evolve. Of one thing we can be certain: predicting future conflict remains notoriously difficult. Our experiences defy a single pattern. Yes, there may be a broad consensus that the threat of direct state-led military attacks against Britain is extremely low and will remain low for the foreseeable future, and we all celebrate and welcome that fact. However, states still pose threats to wider security in some cases, for example by acting through non-state proxies. Miscalculations by states in dispute with each other could also lead to conflict, and we could find that we are drawn in if our vital national interests are at stake. We ignore those risks at our peril.

There is broad agreement on some issues. First, it is agreed that for the immediate future terrorists will pose the most frequent and direct threat to the UK and our interests, and that they will do so in ways that will continue to plumb the depths of depravity, using women and children as suicide bombers. Secondly, it is agreed that there will be a continuing demand for our forces to counter terrorism directly, and we must look beyond Afghanistan and apply the lessons that we learn from operations there.

Thirdly, it is agreed that there will be a continuing demand for peace support operations from peace enforcement to low-level stabilisation, either following state collapse or to freeze or end inter-state conflicts. Some of those missions could involve the use of coercive force. Fourthly, it is agreed that increasing complexity is likely to be a feature of the future use of our armed forces. They are likely to find themselves operating together with a range of other agencies, building on today’s concept of a comprehensive approach. Finally, it is agreed that there should be an increasing premium on preventive activities across Government, working with allies, partners and non-governmental organisations. The work that we are already doing with the African Union is a prime example, and we should remain leaders in that field.

In all that, we should be mindful that the character of conflict evolves incrementally. Emerging nations will have more of an impact on what we try to do and “host
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nations” will be crucial, not only for the legitimacy of many operations but in playing a practical role in their planning and conduct.

As an example of both taking preventive action and working with host nations, the Ministry of Defence has a programme of capacity building that extends to 14 states, including Pakistan. The security forces we train are successful in disrupting terrorist plots, so the benefits can be immediate as well as an investment in longer-term security and international relationships.

An important trend, which complicates conflict, is that non-state adversaries using irregular tactics will be increasingly important in international conflicts—not just terrorists but insurgents, criminals, pirates and even disgruntled individuals conducting cyber attacks from their laptops. One practical example of how we are agile enough to counter those threats is the UK’s leading role in EU anti-piracy operations in the Indian ocean. Hon. Members will have seen the evidence in today’s newspapers of successful Royal Navy action against suspected pirates. The protection of the world’s shipping lines is vital for the economy of the world as a whole—and to us, as an island nation, more than many. We will continue to play our part in securing the smooth passage of global trade—something that the Royal Navy has always done marvellously.

Non-state actors often share motivations and aspirations and co-operate and combine to pose new threats. They are likely to change form to defy our efforts to tackle them. The role of intelligence will therefore remain crucial to identifying those variations.

Mr. Jenkin: Yesterday, a Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed that a British frigate had intervened on pirates off the gulf of Aden who had rocket-propelled grenades in their boats and clearly intended to commit crimes on the high seas, but said that because they were not caught in the act, although the Royal Navy could destroy the weaponry, it had to let them go. Clearly, there is a deficiency in international law or its interpretation, or there is something wrong with our rules of engagement. It cannot be right that pirates, who were caught virtually red-handed, are let go.

Mr. Hutton: I have a lot of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s point. However, I do not believe that there is any deficiency in the rules of engagement—we are able to defend not only ourselves but the ships that we are there to protect, and if necessary, to use lethal force to do that. The decision was rightly made by the commander on the ground, operating within the rules that he had been set. We have an agreement with the Kenyan Government for transferring pirates whom we detain on the high seas to the criminal authorities in Kenya. That agreement works well and several pirates have been moved into the Kenyan criminal system, but we continue to consider ways to improve— [Interruption.] As I said, the decision was made by the commander on the ground, operating within the rules as he saw them. I am here to support him—I am not trying to do anything other than that. However, I am trying to explain that we reached an international agreement with Kenya, which applies to the EU piracy mission. I do not have the precise figures, but I will give them to the hon. Gentleman,
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perhaps later in the debate. Many pirates have been detained in those operations and transferred to the Kenyan criminal authorities.

Mr. Jenkin: I do not think that the Secretary of State is addressing the point. Why in that particular case did the rules of engagement require pirates to be released, not taken to Kenya, according to the agreement? What is the legal situation that prevents the captain of a British warship from detaining those people and handing them over to the Kenyan Government?

Mr. Hutton: The hon. Gentleman suggests that the rules of engagement are the problem. It is nothing to do with them. The commander of the frigate made the decision about whether the evidence would support detention and therefore transfer of the detainees to Kenya. His judgment was that the evidence was not sufficient to bring the case within the framework of the agreement. I am not in a position to second-guess the commander—that is not my job, and I will not be an armchair general, thank you very much. I am here to support the commander’s decision, which is perfectly reasonable within the rules in which he was operating. However, if there are ways in which we can improve such operations, we will try to do that.

Mr. Arbuthnot: To what extent does the Secretary of State believe that commanders on the ground or at sea are constrained by their realisation that the piracy problem off the coast of Somalia is more of a land than a maritime problem? Until we address the causes of piracy in Somalia and the economic collapse of that country, we cannot deal with the symptoms in the seas off its coast.

Mr. Hutton: Again, I have a lot of sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman. The piracy mission is clearly dealing with—in his analysis—the symptoms of the problem. We have to protect the shipping lanes around that important artery, so have no choice but to engage the pirates directly. Obviously, it would be better if solutions could be found to Somalia’s internal problems. Some work on that is under way, although it needs to gather momentum. The position in Somalia is fiendishly complicated, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, but my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, other EU countries, the United Nations, the United States and others are trying to find ways of addressing the root cause of the problem, which is a classic illustration of what happens in the case of a failed state. There is risk of terrorist activity in the south of Somalia and piracy across the country. There are pockets of good governance, which give us a glimmer of hope, but a hell of a lot of work still needs to be done to try to get Somalia into a better position.

If I am right in my general observations, the question for all of us is how we can best respond to the challenges. Clearly, we must first deal with the threats that we currently face; that is why Afghanistan is the priority for us and, I suspect, will be for some years ahead. The importance that we already attach to its many and interconnected security challenges shows that it is possible to achieve success.

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Adaptability and flexibility will be key attributes of force planning. We need to balance our investment in people, equipment and technology to ensure that we have forces that are agile and adaptable to the realities of modern conflict, provide battle-winning capabilities and support our units on the front line. I discussed that and other similar challenges with US Defence Secretary Gates in March when I was in Washington, and I look forward later this year to sharing our analysis of the lessons learned from recent conflicts, including Afghanistan, and what they tell us about the characteristics of future conflict, as well as what they mean for our bilateral defence co-operation in the years ahead.

In response to the new threats, I believe that there are five obvious and immediate priorities for us. The nature of many new threats is such that our response to them will rarely—even primarily—be military. However, when force is required, NATO will remain the cornerstone of our security architecture and we must and will ensure that we can operate with our major allies and partners.

Secondly, we must operate across a spectrum from major combat operations through counter-insurgency and deal with complex challenges. In our 2008 defence strategic guidance, we created a new military task, called military assistance to stabilisation and development—MASD—to ensure that we develop the capability to counter irregular activity and support stabilisation and reconstruction efforts. It is important for the House to note that the new task now formally recognises that UK armed forces should plan and conduct operations to help stabilise and reconstruct in those locations where the security situation is too difficult to allow civilian agencies to work alone.

In practice, that means that we are and will continue to be involved in a variety of activities, including protecting civilian staff, training local security forces or working on engineering projects. It means that UK forces must have the capability to carry out limited reconstruction of, for example, local infrastructure. However, perhaps more often, their main military role will be to build a secure environment in which NGOs and others can operate effectively. Our work in Afghanistan to date demonstrates that that approach can be effective.

Thirdly, we clearly have to prioritise within the resources available. That means managing risk—tackling immediate priorities and most likely future threats—and doing so using structures that are agile and capabilities that are flexible to allow our forces to be able to “stretch, surge and recover”.

In my view, our fourth and fifth priorities are international institutional reform and future capability. International institutions have a vital role to play in defence and security as in all other aspects of international policy. The essentials are sound, but we need the right military capabilities to meet the military threats that we face, whether they are from fundamentalist terrorists in Afghanistan or at the periphery of NATO’s homeland area.

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