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and makes the crucial claim:

Until we address that problem, how will we tackle others?

I have mentioned in the House previously my concern about the disproportionality of our effort. We are putting so much effort into Afghanistan, yet so little into Pakistan. I am encouraged by the Americans’ determination. The section of their paper entitled, “Assisting Pakistan’s capability to fight extremists” states:

Bravo to the Americans! They are providing the capability that will give the Pakistani military the confidence and the capability to tackle the modern threats instead of preoccupying themselves vainly with the non-threat of India.

How does that compare with what we offer? On page 13, the Government’s document, under the heading “The UK’s strategic objectives”, states that we will help Pakistan

and encourage

Those are laudable aims, but to what do they add up when dealing with the crunch problem? The document states:

wait for it—“£10m.”

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Ten million pounds is not a great deal of money, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a country that has an extraordinarily close relationship with Pakistan, we could leverage the American effectiveness hugely, if only we devoted more resources and people to what the Americans are trying to achieve, but we are simply not doing it. I do not know what special forces may or may not be doing in Pakistan, and that is not something that I intend to ask the Minister about. However, what we are providing, in terms of our official armed forces personnel in Pakistan, our diplomatic mission and our overseas aid effort, and in our military-to-military relationship, is pitifully small. Pakistan is a friendly country, but what is coming out of Pakistan is the main threat to our country today, and we are spending a pitifully small amount on confronting that threat.

Finally, the third grand strategic point for the United Kingdom in considering the topic of defence in the world is this. If we are to be a country that contributes something substantial to our security, and if more troops are needed in Afghanistan and the Americans are sending more, what will be the consequence of our being unable to do so or simply refusing to do so? What will be the consequence of our simply not providing the resources that our security requires in the region?

We also have the Basra parallel in Helmand—a point that I was going to raise in my speech, but which several of my right hon. and hon. Friends have already raised—whereby we have failed to deliver what our closest ally felt entitled to expect at the outset, namely a relative proportion of the effort, willpower and sustainment to deliver that sense of solidarity. For everything that our brilliant armed forces achieved in Basra, we left behind a feeling that we had not pulled our weight. For all the sacrifices that our armed forces made, what a terrible tragedy that that should be the feeling in much of Washington and much of the American military establishment, and the same looks to be happening in Helmand. With 17,000 US troops coming into Helmand, against our 8,300 to 8,500—I acknowledge that we are putting in the extra 700 for a temporary period—how will we be entitled to our share of command? How will we be entitled to take credit for whatever is achieved?

I know that those are political points, but we are underselling our influence with our most important ally. So much of what we do in defence and security policy is about maintaining influence over the one country that guarantees our defence and security. If we lose that influence, we will lose the leverage that this country, uniquely in the world, has an opportunity to use, and not just to the benefit of this country, but to the benefit of Europe and the whole world. I am talking about the ability to broaden the American perspective and encourage the Americans to bring more people with them, rather than finding themselves fighting on their own. We must address that, but to do so we need to address our entire defence and security policy, as my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Defence Committee said. We need to ask ourselves what sort of country we really want to be.

Whichever Government are in power, we will fight our way through this period of stringent financial controls as a result of the recession and getting our debt back under control. We will get through that, one way or another. We need to nurse our defence forces through what will be a difficult period, but what will we be
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aiming for at the other end? Will we be aiming to be the power that can project military force throughout the world, fight alongside the United States and maintain its influence in the forums of the world because we will maintain our nuclear deterrent and have aircraft carriers, strike aircraft and the breadth of technological capability that means that we can interact and fight on a global basis? Or are we going to become just another passenger on the American aircraft carrier, with little say and little influence over an increasingly unstable world that threatens the safety and prosperity of our citizens and the people we represent?

We have been feeling pretty sorry for ourselves throughout the expenses crisis in the past few weeks, but I invite right hon. and hon. Members to reflect on the fact that there are people who are facing far greater challenges and dangers and far more pain than we are. In the end, we are letting those people down by asking them to take on global challenges without having a policy to match those tasks with the necessary money and political will to ensure that they succeed.

5.11 pm

Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The international community is preparing to commemorate the 65th anniversary of D-day, but in Colchester, a much fresher and more raw anniversary will be marked next week. It will be the first anniversary of the deaths of the soldiers of the 2nd battalion, the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan. I want primarily to talk about Afghanistan this afternoon. I see no change from a year ago in the support that we are getting from our European allies. On this European election day, perhaps I can be a bit Eurosceptic for once. A year ago, 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is based in Colchester, was in Helmand province. Ten soldiers from 2 Para lost their lives, and the brigade lost more than 30 in total.

Last autumn, at Prime Minister’s questions, I challenged the Prime Minister about the need for more of our European allies to deploy ground troops in southern Afghanistan. The Ministers on the Front Bench today will know that I have raised this issue on other occasions as well, including as recently as this Monday at Defence questions, when I asked the Secretary of State:

He replied:

He went on to say that France was flying fast jets in the south of Afghanistan, but my question was about ground forces.

Let us pay tribute to Romania, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia and Belgium for deploying ground troops. However, that answer highlights the failure of the other European nations in NATO that talk the talk, but do not walk the walk when it comes to southern Afghanistan. What are France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland doing? They are big countries, but they have not deployed ground forces to southern Afghanistan. If there are constraints on those countries—constitutional reasons, perhaps—that prevent them from deploying troops, they can still assist in other ways. They could assist with security measures, medical support, logistics
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and a whole range of other things. They could provide helicopters, for example. However, I do not see much of that happening.

I hope that, in highlighting this issue in my brief contribution to the debate, I can persuade the British Government to bring pressure to bear, through their contacts, on the other European countries in NATO to deploy ground troops. We cannot expect only the United States, the United Kingdom and some of the smaller countries of Europe to do so.

Mr. Blunt: It is easy to criticise our European partners in this matter, but we should remember that the authors of this strategy were the British Government. When the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (John Reid) was Defence Secretary, he thought it appropriate to deploy NATO in this fashion—as it is deployed in Afghanistan—and he drove that policy very hard. I do not think that our European powers were wildly enthusiastic about it, which has now partly been reflected in the quality of their contribution. We did not get the strategy sorted out at the beginning, so the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) is effectively reflecting on one of the consequences of that failure.

Bob Russell: This is a NATO exercise as far as I am concerned, and the consequences of whatever goes wrong in Afghanistan are exported to mainland Europe as well as to the United Kingdom. Whatever the background as to why we are where we are, I want to make my point as strongly as I can.

I have already mentioned that it is European election day today. Every Army married quarters in my constituency is located within the Maypole Division, and there are military families living in St. Michael’s, Montgomery and Drury Meadows estates. I want to put on record the fact that within the last 24 hours, leaflets have been distributed there saying that Liberal Democrat policies include

That is simply not true. I do not blame Conservative Members who are here, as they did not put the literature out, but it did go out in the name of their party. When we are talking to military families, I believe that we must be 100 per cent. factual: it is wrong to deceive, mislead or whatever. Those families have enough issues on their plate without being told untruths of that sort. I do not support a European army. It is quite clear from what I have said that we want European collaboration and support, which is a world of difference away from having a European army.

I believe that all of us are united when we participate in defence debates in the House. Through my involvement with the armed forces parliamentary scheme on two occasions and my membership of the Committee considering the Armed Forces Bill, I have sensed that there are far more areas of common agreement than disagreement. Of course there are some disagreements, but everyone here today is, I believe, broadly of the same mind and united in our support of Her Majesty’s armed forces. I pay tribute to them, and to the increasing role played by females. As Members may have gathered from the question that I put to the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon), I draw the line at females being
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in the front line of the infantry. That is not to say that they should not be in the front line in many other respects, but I am sure that my point is well understood.

As I indicated by my question to the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot), the Chairman of the Defence Committee, I also pay tribute to the role played by soldiers—some airmen and sailors, but predominantly soldiers—from the Commonwealth, and I would like to conclude by drawing the House’s attention to early-day motion 1516. It pays tribute to Lance-Corporal Johnson Beharry, VC, who Members may recall was subjected to a vicious verbal attack by the British National party, which questioned his heroism. The early-day motion rebuts those wicked words of attack on him. It says:

It is appropriate to quote that early-day motion on the day of the European elections, and when the House is discussing defence in the world.

5.20 pm

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) on what he has just said. I was proud to sign his early-day motion and I would like to reassure him about one thing. I do not know what the parliamentary term for “scum” is, but when people such as those in the British National party behave in the way he described, we can be all the more reassured about how right we are to condemn, oppose and disrespect them and all their works. I only hope that, despite all the provocations from Westminster to our constituents, they nevertheless have the maturity and good sense to do the same to the BNP in the elections today.

However, in the spirit of partisanship, which I cannot entirely resist, I say to the hon. Gentleman that if it were not for the Liberal Democrats’ policy of proportional representation, the prospects of the BNP leader entering the European Parliament would be much smaller.

In March 2008 I had the privilege of giving a joint presentation—I must stress that I was very much the junior partner—to a group called First Defence, of which I was the parliamentary chairman. The presentation was entitled “Counter-Insurgency in Principle and Practice”. I was talking about some of the principles of counter-insurgency, but the person everyone came to listen to was Dr. David Kilcullen, who was talking about his experiences in practice in Iraq.

One of the most important points about people such as Dr. Kilcullen—who was, among other things, a special adviser to General Petraeus and subsequently to Condoleezza Rice—is that the architects of what we hope will be the ultimately successful strategy in Iraq
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are also some of the people who are least dogmatic about the methods that one can adopt to deal with terrorists and insurgents.

In his book “The Accidental Guerrilla”, which has just been published, Dr. Kilcullen says that in many cases the people against whom we find ourselves fighting would not have taken up arms against us had we not gone into their countries in the first place. That is a message that one gets from all parts of the House, although it is at the same time acknowledged that sometimes, even though such fighting is a consequence of our having had to go into those countries, we had little alternative. However, as Dr. Kilcullen stresses, we should do so only as a last resort.

I have pointed out previously that there are some similarities between orthodox political campaigning and the methods used by terrorist groups, albeit not in the moral dimension. There are at least five principles that terrorist groups adopt. I shall quickly list them. The first is:

The next two are:


That is precisely what I described in relation to the reaction, in the case of Afghanistan, when an attack was mounted against the American homeland from a country in which it would be difficult and bloody to intervene. The last two principles are:


To a large extent, the methods adopted by the Americans and the British have been to try to use conventional military power against such unconventional enemies. We need to try to avoid being bled dry, however, in a form of warfare that involves fighting on the enemy’s strongest ground, not ours. Of the many wise words in Dr. Kilcullen’s latest book, which I commend to Members in all parts of the House, he says:



Mr. Jenkin: Quite right.

Dr. Lewis: I am glad my hon. Friend says so. Dr. Kilcullen continues:

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