Global Security: Afghanistan and Pakistan - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents


7  The UK's new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan: a way forward?

253.  Like the US, the UK recently decided to review its policy for Afghanistan. On 29 April 2009 the Cabinet Office launched a new "comprehensive strategy" entitled, "UK policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the Way Forward".[414] Mirroring the US strategy, the UK's approach has also been altered to include Pakistan. The strategy was a result of a stock-taking process on the part of relevant government departments which assessed the UK's 'strategic engagement' in Afghanistan. It focused on the progress that had been made between December 2007 and November 2008 towards the objectives which were previously agreed by the National Security, International Relations and Development Cabinet Committee (NSID (OD)) and which we detailed at Paragraph 220. We are grateful to the Government for having allowed us access to classified material relating to the new UK strategy which has informed our overall conclusions.

254.  On the same day, 29 April, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Department for International Development (DfID) also set out their future policies in relation to Afghanistan. The MoD explained that UK force levels in Afghanistan would increase to 9,000 over the course of the Afghan elections scheduled to be held later in 2009, before reducing to an "enduring presence" of 8,300 in 2010. It stated that the number of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, Sea King air surveillance and control helicopters is to increase.[415] A new airborne stand-off radar system is also to be used.[416]

255.  DfID's new four-year, £510 million country plan for Afghanistan focuses on four areas: building an effective state; encouraging economic growth; providing alternatives to poppy growing; and promoting stability and development in Helmand. There is also to be more effort expended on addressing gender inequality and a commitment to spend at least 50% of British assistance through "Afghan Government systems".[417]

Key elements of the new UK strategy common to Afghanistan and Pakistan

256.  The strategy has a number of objectives that apply to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are as follows:

  • ensuring Al Qaida does not return to Afghanistan, and is defeated or incapacitated in Pakistan's border areas;
  • reducing the insurgencies on both sides of the Afghanistan and Pakistan border to a level that poses no significant threat to progress in either country;
  • supporting both states in tackling terrorism and violent extremism, and in building capacity to address and contain the threat within their borders;
  • helping both states contain and reduce the drugs trade, and divide it from insurgency;
  • building stronger security forces, better governance, and economic development, so that progress is sustainable.

The Government's priorities in Afghanistan

257.  As we discussed earlier, the Government's mission in Afghanistan has expanded considerably since the UK first became involved in 2001. Its new strategy for Afghanistan contains many element of the previous strategy which has been in force since 2007. It contains the twin goals of (1) helping Afghanistan become an effective and accountable state, increasingly able to provide security and deliver basic services to its people; and (2) providing long-term sustainable support for the Afghan National Development Strategy, particularly in relation to governance, rule of law, human rights and poverty reduction. In his statement to the House on 29 April, the Prime Minister said:

For Afghanistan, our strategy is to ensure that the country is strong enough as a democracy to withstand and overcome the terrorist threat, and strengthening Afghan control and resilience will require us to intensify our work in the following key areas. First, we will build up the Afghan police and army and the rule of law, and we should now adopt the stated goal of enabling district by district, province by province handover to Afghan control. Secondly, we want to strengthen Afghan democracy at all levels, including by ensuring credible and inclusive elections and improving security through that period. Thirdly, we want to help strengthen local government in Afghanistan, not least the traditional Afghan structures such as the local shuras. Fourthly, we want to give people in Afghanistan a stake in their future, promoting economic development as the best way of helping the Afghan people to achieve not just stability but prosperity.[418]

258.  We asked Lord Malloch-Brown whether the Government's top priority in Afghanistan was security, good governance or human rights. In response, he told us that it is extremely difficult to achieve one without all three:

Security might seem separable, in that you might be able to have it without governance and human rights, but the lesson from recent years in Afghanistan is that that is not the case; in some cases, the absence of good governance has fuelled the insurgency. Similarly on human rights, we need to draw the human rights line at a reasonable level and not expect to get everything conforming to tip-top, impeccable, best western standards and practice. […]

I think you have to progress on all three objectives without taking your feet off the ground, […] and aiming for the moon—trying to create a model state that is beyond reach and that would lead to an over-extension of our mission in impossible ways.[419]

The reason we have asked for that commitment from our soldiers is not to bring about girls' education or development. To be honest, there are plenty of countries in the world that welcome our development pound but where we do not have to put in our army to ensure that it is used properly. If it were just about anti-poverty, we should take our money and spend it in Africa or poor parts of India, but we are not doing that. [420]

259.  In a letter to the Liaison Committee in July 2009, the Prime Minister stated:

In 2001 the case for intervention in Afghanistan was to take on a global terrorist threat and prevent terrorist attacks in Britain and across the world. In 2009 the overriding reason for our continued involvement is the same—to take on, at its source, the terrorist threat, and prevent attacks here and elsewhere.[421]

260.  Our witnesses had different views about what the Government's priorities should be. Daniel Korski told us that, in the short term, the focus should be on providing support to ensure credible elections in the autumn. He argued that in the south of Afghanistan there "needs to be a much sharper focus on security and elements of governance, and probably leaving aside many of the areas that we would like to work on if the environment becomes a little more benign".[422] He added that subsequent to this the priority would be:

the development of a governance strategy that works for Afghanistan—that does not necessarily create that centralised state, but at least allows the delivery of some basic services. We have created Potemkin institutions, if you will, in Kabul, and I think we have to be much clearer about what our priorities are.[423]

261.  Dr Gordon told us that there should be a number of policy priorities and they all need to be addressed to make progress. In his view this will involve adopting "a raft of measures, not one simple focus". He argued that "it is about creating space for collaboration, a government who are capable of developing their legitimacy through some form of public services, which are prioritised, and an immediate and demand-led economic recovery as well". He noted that the focus on capacity-building and sustainability is "laudable", but that "what is often required is a sense that the Government are doing something now. If they do not do something now, that hearts and minds strategy is doomed to failure".[424]

262.  Dr Goodhand told us:

One of the problems with intervention since 2002 has been the idea that all good things come together and that we can pursue the war on terror, reinvent the NATO alliance, address drugs and bring democracy and development to Afghanistan, but we cannot do so. We have to make some priorities here.[425]

263.  He added that where there was a clash of priorities between security and long-term development, it should be a case of "security first". He explained that "there is no empirical evidence, either historically or presently, to support the notion that development will win hearts and minds and help play a pacifying role. It is completely wrong-headed to think that. Bringing a level of security means addressing the insurgency, not just militarily, but politically. That seems to be a precondition for any kind of sustainable development".[426] James Fergusson also emphasised the importance of linking UK effort back to the UK's national security interests. He stated:

Are we there to build a new democracy or are we there for our national security interests? The two things conflict. My own view is that we are going to have to take a hard-nosed realpolitik line on Afghanistan, which is about our security.[427]

Justifications for the UK's continued presence in Afghanistan

AN EXISTING BASE FOR INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM?

264.  The Government puts forward a range of reasons for its continued presence in Afghanistan. As we discussed in the previous chapter, its initial intervention was based on the belief that Afghanistan represented a strategic, and immediate, security threat to the UK because of the presence of Al Qaeda. In the intervening years, the Government has continued to claim that Afghanistan is a strategic threat. In a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in November 2008, the then Defence Secretary John Hutton stated:

[…] [T]he decision to stay [ in Afghanistan] was based on a hard-headed assessment of our clear national security interest in preventing the re-emergence of Taleban rule or Afghanistan's decline into a failing state again. Either of those outcomes would have allowed Al Qaida to return and recreate their terrorist infrastructure. The same calculations informed our later decisions to make a significant military contribution to the International Security and Assistance Force, and then to play a lead role in NATO's operations in the south, especially in Helmand Province.[428]

265.  The Government's new strategy, announced in April, maintains this approach. During a visit to Afghanistan in April 2009, the Prime Minister said that "there is a crucible of terrorism in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan". He added that "three-quarters of the terrorist activities that happened in Britain arise from the areas around here. The safety of people on the streets of Britain is immediately being safeguarded by the action being taken here".[429] In a similar vein, Lord Malloch-Brown set out the rationale for the UK's continued presence in Afghanistan:

In this new global era a distant country such as Afghanistan, or indeed its neighbour, Pakistan, can pose huge security threats to people on the streets of our cities, as we have seen in terrorist incidents since 2001. So this, in its motivation and rationale, is a classic national security challenge, to which the solution is some measure of development, good governance and security that defuses Afghanistan as a threat to us. We must remember that the reason we are there, and particularly why our soldiers are there, is to defuse that threat from terrorism in our market squares, nightclubs and train stations.[430]

266.  The FCO's written submission states that "the significance of Afghanistan in the psyche of Islamist extremists, the potential for Al-Qaeda to use the current insurgency to galvanise a similar level of resistance to that witnessed in Iraq and their continuing aspiration to return to the pre-September 11th situation in the country leads the UK to view Afghanistan as amongst its highest priorities in countering terrorism".[431] Referring to the reasons for UK involvement in Afghanistan, the Prime Minister stated on 11 July that "this is a fight to clear terrorist networks from Afghanistan".[432]

267.  However, a number of witnesses noted the importance of distinguishing between the Afghan Taliban, against whom the British military are fighting but who appear to have no foreign policy agenda other than the removal of foreign forces from their country, and Al Qaeda, which continues to mount a serious threat to the UK. As David Loyn told us, "Afghanistan never terrorised the rest of the world. It was host to people who did".[433] James Fergusson argued that, "there is this rather lazy conflation of language". He added, "the Foreign Office now talks about the threats coming 'from this area', but, […] they do not, they come from Pakistan".[434] This point was reinforced by a range of interlocutors who told us that that Al Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan, a point which the FCO acknowledges in its written submission when it states that "international terrorist activity has been disrupted and reduced to a relatively low level throughout the country".[435]

A FUTURE BASE FOR TERRORISM?

268.  The second, and related, reason which the Government gives for its presence in Afghanistan is based on the belief that it is "vital to immediate UK national security interests that Afghanistan becomes a stable and secure state that can suppress terrorism and violent extremism within its borders and contribute to the same objective across the border in Pakistan".[436] In July the Prime Minister stated: "If, in Afghanistan, extremists return to power and once again provide a safe haven for Al Qaeda, then the same threat of global terrorism arises".[437]

269.  We asked witnesses whether they agreed with the proposition that Al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan if international forces were not present or the Afghan state was weak. Colonel Christopher Langton of IISS argued that in the event of a reduction in effort or withdrawal of troops, Afghanistan "could reconstitute a safe haven for international terrorism". He told us that Afghanistan remains a "rentier state, and it is very far away from being able to stand on its own two feet. In those conditions, any withdrawal creates a vacuum, and I am quite sure that those who wish us ill know that very well".[438] Professor Farrell presented a similar view, and stated that "one can predict with fair confidence that the Afghan Government would last a little while and then collapse. The Taliban would push back in and then in short order we would see Al Qaeda back in Afghanistan, operating out of it".[439] However, both James Fergusson and Christina Lamb argued that the Afghan Taliban have no reason to allow Al Qaeda to return and that, in any event, Al Qaeda has no need to return to Afghanistan given its strong support network in Pakistan.[440] Similar arguments are presented by Professor John Mueller in the journal Foreign Affairs. He states:

Given the Taliban's limited interest in issues outside the "AfPak" region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention. And even if al Qaeda were able to relocate to Afghanistan after a Taliban victory there, it would still have to operate under the same siege situation it presently enjoys in what Obama calls its "safe haven" in Pakistan.[441]

According to Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, "two Taliban spokespeople separately told The New York Times that their movement had broken with al Qaeda since 9/11" and that others linked to the insurgency had made the same point to the authors. They state:

Such statements cannot simply be taken at face value, but that does not mean that they should not be explored further. An agreement in principle to prohibit the use of Afghan (or Pakistani) territory for international terrorism, plus an agreement from the United States and NATO that such a guarantee could be sufficient to end their hostile military action, could constitute a framework for negotiation. Any agreement in which the Taliban or other insurgents disavowed al Qaeda would constitute a strategic defeat for al Qaeda.[442]

270.  During our oral evidence session with Lord Malloch-Brown we asked him to explain what evidence the Government has to support the assumption that Al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan if western military forces were not present. He told us that the "presence of a strong Taliban-based insurgency in southern Afghanistan allows us reasonably to assume that absent control from Kabul, whether or not they were formally allowed back, would mean that there would be nothing stopping Al Qaeda operating again in Afghanistan".[443] Adam Thomson, the FCO's South Asia and Afghanistan Director added:

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are collaborating on the Pakistani side of the border in operations into Afghanistan. So there is some evidence to suggest that they have a continuing working relationship. It is not necessarily cordial. It may simply be a matter of practical mutual interest.[444]

COUNTER-NARCOTICS

271.  We considered the issue of counter-narcotics earlier at Paragraphs 116-130. We discuss it in this section primarily because containing and reducing the drugs trade continues to be a strategic objective for the UK in Afghanistan. The Government's National Security Strategy also lists six major sources of threat to the UK, one of which is transnational crime. Afghanistan's supply of 90% of the heroin in the UK is said to fall within the 'transnational crime' category.[445] The size of the UK's heroin street market has been estimated at £1.2 billion (out of a total £4 billion for all Class A drugs). On that basis, drugs originating from Afghanistan represent between 25% and 30% of the value of the UK's Class A market.[446] In its written submission, in a section titled 'Why Afghanistan Matters', the FCO states that "in the longer term, building up the Afghan Government's ability to tackle the narcotics trade is important to global action against illegal drugs, and in particular to UK action against illegal drugs".[447]

272.  We have received somewhat contradictory messages from the Government about the role they consider the UK should play in relation to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. The FCO's written submission states that narcotics are a threat to the UK which merit its role as Afghanistan's international 'lead partner', but Lord Malloch-Brown appeared less persuaded, stating "[W]e feel that we are doing [this] more because someone has to than because we are hugely enthusiastic about it, so if others wanted to take it on credibly we would help them do it".[448] He went on to tell us:

We feel that we need to help the Americans by leading on different policy issues where they wish us to. Yes, it is not a comfortable position to be in. It is not great PR to be in charge of counter-narcotics, but as I say, it is an important part of this. My closing point is that, while it is not great PR, it is not all a disaster.[449]

273.  During our visit we queried whether the British focus on 'winning hearts and minds' was compatible with military involvement in counter-narcotics operations, which in some cases use ISAF to target the only means that many Helmandis have of making a living. Some interlocutors told us that soldiers are reluctant to be involved in counter-narcotics operations whilst simultaneously trying to win support for their counter-insurgency efforts among the local population. David Loyn also told us that the biggest concern for British officers fighting in Helmand now is "that they may be on one side of what is, effectively, a drug war".[450]

274.  We conclude that while the drugs trade has an invidious effect on governance on Afghanistan and ultimately, through the flow of heroin to the West, has a damaging impact on the UK, the Government's assessment that the drugs trade in Afghanistan is a strategic threat to the UK which, in part, merits the UK's continued military presence in Afghanistan, is debatable.

UNSPOKEN AIMS: NATO'S CREDIBILITY AND RELATIONS WITH THE US

275.  Giving evidence to us on 25 February 2009, Professor Theo Farrell argued that government policy was also driven by a desire to sustain NATO's credibility. The FCO's written submission states that Afghanistan is a test for the international community, especially for the United Nations and NATO. It adds:

We have a direct interest in them succeeding, and being seen to succeed because failure for the international community would have far reaching effects not only for regional security but also for the authority and credibility of those key multilateral institutions that underpin the UK's security and support for the international rule of law. [451]

276.  Professor Farrell also argues that the UK has an unstated aim of ensuring its reputation and relationship with the US. The FCO's written submission only refers to the fact that "Afghanistan is an enduring US political commitment, reinforced by the President-elect" and makes few other direct references to the UK's relationship with the US.[452] Echoing a number of recent press reports, Professor Farrell told us "the feedback that I have received from people in Washington is that the American view is that we were very good at counter-insurgency at one stage, and now we are not so good. All the operations surrounding the Charge of the Knights [in Iraq] - our failure to support that operation and the fact that we lost control of Basra - is evidence to them that we have lost the ability to conduct COIN [counter-insurgency]".[453] In Professor Farrell's view this is "really worrying because if […] one reason why we are in Afghanistan is to support our relationship with the United States, we are kind of wasting our time if they think that we are not performing. That is part of a misperception on their part".[454] Professor Farrell suggested that public opposition to the war in Iraq and distrust about the British Government's role in supporting the US in its mission there had made the Government wary of stating publicly that part of the reason for being in Afghanistan was to support the US.[455]

Assessing the justifications: mixed messages?

277.  One of the issues that we set out to explore during this inquiry was the extent to which instability and insecurity in Afghanistan, and neighbouring areas in Pakistan, continue to represent a threat to the UK. As far as Afghanistan is concerned, it was the imperative to combat international terrorism and remove the threat that it posed to western interests, along with a desire to support the US, which prompted the UK's initial intervention in 2001. The claim that Afghanistan continues to represent an immediate strategic threat to the UK continues to be used by the Government nearly eight years later. This single justification would, if deemed to be sound, be in itself sufficient to justify the UK's continuing presence in Afghanistan. However, while the Government may well be correct to suggest that Afghanistan could once again become a safe haven for Al Qaeda if Western forces left prematurely, there is a strong argument to be made that Afghanistan, and the Taliban insurgency, does not currently in itself represent an immediate security threat to the UK. That threat, in the form of Al Qaeda and international terrorism, can be said more properly to emanate from Pakistan. This is more than a question of semantics. It goes to the heart of the UK's justification for being in Afghanistan. If we are to ask our troops to risk their lives we must be clear about what we are fighting for, and against.

278.   We conclude that the expansion of the stated justifications for the UK's mission in Afghanistan since 2001 has made it more difficult for the Government to communicate the basic purpose of the mission and this risks undermining support for the mission both in the UK and in Afghanistan. We welcome the Government's recognition that its strategy must be grounded in realistic objectives. However, it is not easy to see how this can be reconciled with the open-ended and wide-ranging series of objectives which form the current basis for UK effort in Afghanistan. We recommend that in the immediate future the Government should re-focus its efforts to concentrate its limited resources on one priority, namely security.

279.  We conclude that there can be no question of the international community abandoning Afghanistan, and that the issues at stake must therefore be how best the UK and its allies can allocate responsibilities and share burdens so as to ensure that the country does not once again fall into the hands of those who seek to threaten the security of the UK and the West. We further conclude that the need for the international community to convey publicly that it intends to outlast the insurgency and remain in Afghanistan until the Afghan authorities are able to take control of their own security, must be a primary objective.

The UK's strategy for Pakistan

280.  Since 2001, the British Government's security strategy towards Pakistan has in many respects followed the lead of the US. In December 2004, the Government stated that the UK and Pakistan shared close strategic ties and that Pakistan was a key ally in the 'war against terror', a stance that the British government continued to maintain publicly for the duration of the Musharraf era. In December 2006, the UK Government signed a long-term Development Partnership Agreement with the government of Pakistan. As a result, UK aid to Pakistan doubled, from £236 million for the period 2005 to 2008, up to £480 million for the period 2008 to 2011, making Pakistan one of the UK's largest aid recipients.[456]

281.  In recent years relations between the UK and Pakistan have been dominated by the issue of terrorism. As we have seen, in December 2008, the Prime Minister stated that 75% of the most serious terrorist plots being investigated by UK authorities have links to Pakistan.[457] The Government states that it has been helping "Pakistan […] take ownership of the struggle against violent extremism".[458] In practice this has meant the provision of "extensive bilateral counter-terrorism assistance", and training to build capacity in areas such as scanning, detecting car bombs, bomb disposal and airport security. It has also helped to build more capacity in policing, including forensic science, crisis response and countering extremist ideology.[459] The Prime Minister recently announced a £10 million package of counterterrorism capacity, "giving assistance to Pakistan's agencies".[460]

282.  Detailing the Government's new approach to Pakistan on 29 April in a statement to the House, the Prime Minister stated:

In Pakistan, […] we want to work with the elected Government and the army […] Pakistan has a large and well funded army, and we want to work with it to help it counter terrorism by taking more control of the border areas. Secondly, not least through support for education and development, we want to prevent young people from falling under the sway of violent and extremist ideologies.[461]

283.  The strategy states that a "stable Pakistan is strategically important to British interests and to the region" and that it requires "high-level political diplomatic and official engagement more than directly deployed resources".[462] As we noted in Chapter 4, the Government argues that it is from Pakistan's border areas (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan) that Al Qaeda "recruits and trains terrorists (including vulnerable people from the UK) and plans attacks against Western targets".[463] Afghan groups are also said to train and plan attacks on international and Afghan targets in Afghanistan from the FATA. The Government adds that Baluchistan is a "vital supply route for opiates smuggled to the UK".[464] During our oral evidence session with Lord Malloch-Brown he told us that it has become "absolutely critical to Britain's national security that the strategy succeeds in Pakistan and that a democratic Government are established who impose law and order and security, and suppress the terrorist groups. It is harder to think of a more important foreign policy priority at the moment for the UK than success in Pakistan".[465]

284.  The Government's key objectives specifically in relation to Pakistan are as follows:

  • Helping Pakistan achieve its vision of becoming a stable, economically and socially developed democracy and meet its poverty reduction targets;
  • Encouraging constructive Pakistani engagement on nuclear safety issues.[466]

285.  Our witnesses set out a range of issues upon which they believe the Government should be focusing on in its relations with Pakistan. Dr Gohel stated that there is a need to "help to shore up the civilian government and prevent the military from interfering in the domestic scene". He added "unfortunately, far too often we have taken a back seat. We assumed that Musharraf would do the right thing, […] and unfortunately he did not."[467] He also urged a broad-based approach to future political engagement:

The UK has to consider talking to all the different leaders in that country, because if we do not, others will. Nawaz Sharif's biggest complaint, when he was in the UK a couple of years ago, was that he was ignored. The Saudis stepped in. They gave him armour-plated cars and support, and they have now got a lot of influence with him. We lost an opportunity there. So, we should be talking to the civilian politicians and helping them, shoring them up against any threat from terrorism and the military, but we should not be talking to the Pakistani Taliban and assuming somehow that they will come to the negotiating table.[468]

286.  Daniel Korski concurred about the need to support the civilian government, but added that far more investment was needed in police and judicial reform, particularly in the border areas. On the issue of delivery of aid he suggested that "we need to have a new look at how we deliver assistance, in particular in some of these troubled areas, perhaps with non-traditional partners".[469]

287.  The Government states that it is working closely with the US to co-ordinate support for Pakistani security forces, and that it is "keen to help Pakistan establish a trust fund for reconstruction and development in Pakistan's border areas, administered by the World Bank". The UK has supported a US initiative to establish a Tri-lateral Commission bringing together senior political figures from Afghanistan and Pakistan with a focus on border issues.[470] Lord Malloch-Brown told us that the UK was giving support "on the premise that there is going to be clear Pakistani action against these groups".[471] He added that, in return,

what we have demanded from them is that they continue to meet their commitments to poverty reduction, good financial management and respect for human rights and other international obligations, including in this area. But we have to find the right balance, because if we do this wrong and make it too conditional and too political, it will backfire and not achieve the objectives that we want.[472]

288.  As we discussed above at Paragraph 163, a number of our witnesses also highlighted the issue of radical madrassahs. We note that this is not mentioned in the Government's strategy for Pakistan.

289.  We welcome the Prime Minister's announcement of £10 million to support the Pakistani government's counter terrorism efforts and we recommend that the Government intensifies its help to Pakistan in this area.

THE EXTENT OF INTELLIGENCE CO-OPERATION

290.  Given the nature of the threat that terrorism emanating from Pakistan presents to the UK, the Government has argued that "operational co-operation" with Pakistan is "vital".[473] The extent to which this actually occurs was queried by several of our witnesses. Professor Shaun Gregory argued that in spite of the aid provided by the UK and US, "we can no longer afford a "business as usual" relationship with the Pakistani military".[474] He claims that the ISI is not proactive in making its own intelligence available to the West, and that there are "huge gaps in the intelligence the ISI does provide to the West which Western agencies believe they are able to fill should they wish".[475] Professor Gregory asserted that the ISI has been unhelpful in relation to investigations into the 7/7 and 21/7 attacks, and that it has misdirected US and UK intelligence services on a number of recent occasions.[476] Dr Gohel also highlighted poor co-operation as an issue of concern. He told us that "more co-operation on the Pakistan side in terms of counter-terrorism is needed", specifically "information as to where British citizens go, where they end up being trained to take part in acts of terrorism against the UK."[477] Referring to individuals who were convicted recently for terrorism-related offences, Dr Gohel stated:

We know that they went to places such as Malakand and Kohat in the North West Frontier province. What is disturbing about that is that in Malakand there is a very large army presence and they would have been trained around the same area. So, one has to wonder where these individuals go, where they are trained and who is training them. We know that the ISI is a very powerful institution. […] If it wanted to, it could certainly co-operate a lot more in providing the information that we need for our authorities here to be able to carry out their investigations successfully and disrupt and foil plots.[478]

291.  We asked Lord Malloch-Brown for the Government's assessment of ISI co-operation with British authorities on matters relating to terrorism. He told us this is an issue that is "continually debated at the official level" and that it had also been the subject of recent discussions between the Prime Minister and President Zardari. He added:

I think it has historically been a problem with two sides to it, with the ISI complaining that we have been reluctant to share operational intelligence because we have been worried about its security; both sides bring an argument to the table about this. […]

Given the number of terrorist incidents and averted incidents in the UK that are sourced from Pakistan in one way or another, it has become absolutely incumbent on us that we build a more trusting intelligence relationship between the two countries. We need that for our security. The fact is that it has not been perfect, there have been problems and we are working to try to raise it to a new level.[479]

292.  In addition to the issue of Pakistan's willingness to assist the UK, the Committee was also told on its visit to Pakistan that there is a lack of capacity within the Pakistani system that hinders bi-lateral co-operation on counter-terrorism issues.

293.  In our forthcoming annual Report on human rights, we will look at another issue relevant to the relationship between the British Government and the Pakistani intelligence services: that of allegations that British officials have been complicit in the torture of terrorism suspects by the Pakistani authorities.[480]

294.  We conclude that the Government is correct to place a heavy emphasis on Pakistan in its new strategy for Afghanistan, published in April 2009, and to seek to build on the broad engagement that the UK has had with Pakistan in relation to counter-terrorism since 2001. We welcome the focus on long-term solutions and the Government's commitment to assisting Pakistan to strengthen its civilian institutions. We conclude the balance of the UK's relationship with Pakistan particularly regarding its co-operation on counter-terrorism has to be improved.

295.  We recommend that the Government should consider how best it can work with allies to develop an international policy for assisting the Pakistani government in dealing with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

PROCESSING OF UK VISAS IN PAKISTAN

296.  Also, during our visit to Islamabad, interlocutors told the Committee about the high level of fraudulent and forged UK visa applications which are made in Pakistan, particularly for student visas. We note that at the time of our visit the FCO was undertaking a stock take of the situation with a view to implementing measures to ensure the veracity of documents. However, allegations were also relayed to us about poor quality control and a lack of supervision of locally engaged subcontractors. We asked the FCO for additional information on this matter. In response, they provided with a written submission which is attached to this report.[481] The submission outlines the aspects of the visa process in Pakistan which are sub-contracted and to whom, and the procedures which exist to ensure quality control of sub-contractors. We note that the UK Borders Agency is currently reviewing its procedures to "strengthen the integrity of the service".[482]

297.  We recommend that it its response to this Report, the Government provides us with an update on what measures it is implementing in Pakistan to strengthen the integrity of its visa application and processing operations against fraudulent applications and to what extent and in what ways it is co-operating with the UK Borders Agency on this matter.



414   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009 Back

415   HC Deb, 29 April 2009, col 46WS Back

416   The radar system allows the military to track movements on the ground and is intended to help the military detect, follow and intercept insurgents before they can lay IEDs. Back

417   HC Deb, 29 April 2009, col 51WS Back

418   HC Deb, 29 April 2009, col 869 Back

419   Q 180 Back

420   Q 182 Back

421   Uncorrected Evidence presented by: Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Uploaded on 16 July 2009, HC 257-ii  Back

422   Ev 53-54 Back

423   Ev 53-54 Back

424   Q 172 Back

425   Q 95 Back

426   Q 93 Back

427   Q 135 Back

428   Rt Hon John Hutton MP, (then) Secretary of State for Defence at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, 11 November 2008 Back

429   "Gordon Brown unveils plan to tackle 'crucible of terrorism' between Afghanistan and Pakistan", Daily Telegraph, 27 April 2009  Back

430   Q 182 Back

431   Ev 80 Back

432   Uncorrected Evidence presented by Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Uploaded on 16 July 2009, HC 257-ii, www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmliaisn/uc257_ii/uc25701.htm  Back

433   Q 131 Back

434   Q 121 Back

435   Ev 79 Back

436   Ev 73 Back

437   Uncorrected Evidence presented by Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, Uploaded on 16 July 2009, HC 257-ii  Back

438   Q 10 Back

439   Q 12 Back

440   Q 133ff Back

441   John Mueller "How Dangerous are the Taliban? Why Afghanistan Is the Wrong War", Foreign Affairs, 15 April 2009, www.foreignaffairs.com  Back

442   Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid, "From Great Game to Grand Bargain: Ending Chaos in Afghanistan and Pakistan", Foreign Affairs, November/December 2008 Back

443   Q 186 Back

444   Q 188 Back

445   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 5 Back

446   HC Deb 481, 23 October 2008, col 510W Back

447   Ev 75 Back

448   Q 217 Back

449   Q 217 Back

450   Q 116 Back

451   Ev 75 Back

452   Ev 75 Back

453   Q 29 Back

454   Q 29 Back

455   Q 19 Back

456   HC Deb, 5 February 2009, col 1040 Back

457   Transcript of a press conference given by the Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, and Mr Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, in Islamabad, 14 December 2008, www.number10.gov.uk Back

458   HC Deb, 5 February 2009, col 1039 Back

459   Transcript of a press conference given by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Mr Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, in Islamabad, 14 December 2008 Back

460   Transcript of press conference given by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Prime Minister Gilani of Pakistan, in Islamabad, Tuesday 28 April 2009, www.number10.gov.uk Back

461   HC Deb, 29 April 2009, col 870  Back

462   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 6 Back

463   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 11 Back

464   Ibid. Back

465   Q 225 Back

466   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 13 Back

467   Q 173 Back

468   Q 173 Back

469   Q 173 Back

470   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 16 Back

471   Q 225 Back

472   Q 232 Back

473   "UK Policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan: the way forward", Cabinet Office, April 2009, p 24 Back

474   Ev 166 Back

475   Ev 166 Back

476   Ev 166 Back

477   Q 173 Back

478   Q 173 Back

479   Q 227 Back

480   Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2008-09, Human Rights Annual Report 2008, HC 557 Back

481   Ev 188 Back

482   Ev 188 Back


 
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