Afghanistan and the Green Paper - Defence Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-103)

RT HON BOB AINSWORTH MP, MR JONATHAN DAY, LIEUTENANT GENERAL SIMON MAYALL, MR TOM MCKANE AND MR VINCENT DEVINE

9 FEBRUARY 2010

  Q1  Chairman: Secretary of State, good morning.

Mr Ainsworth: Good morning, Chairman.

  Q2  Chairman: Could I ask you, please, to introduce your team, whom I suspect we know already, but nevertheless.

  Mr Ainsworth: I have with me General Simon Mayall, who is DCDS (Ops), and Jonathan Day to assist me with your detailed questions. I will do the easy ones and anything that is difficult I will hand on to one or other of those.

  Q3  Chairman: We have two topics that we want to consider today. The first is Afghanistan, where we were as a Committee two or three weeks ago. The second is the Green Paper. We will probably spend about an hour on each. You have to be away by 12.40-ish, 12.45 at the very latest, so we will try to stop at 12.40. We will start with Afghanistan. I wonder if you could give us an outline of what is known as Operation Moshtarak, and if you could tell us what is the purpose and expectation from that operation?

  Mr Ainsworth: One of the main focuses of General McChrystal over some period of time now has been the need to complete the ability to bring security to the Central Helmand Valley. That is the aim of Op Moshtarak, which has been planned for some long time. Moshtarak—the Dari word for "together"—to indicate that the planning for these operations involves the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and security forces to a far greater extent than ever before. This is an operation with which they are totally involved. They have been involved in the planning of it as well as its execution. There are operations planned for both the American part of Central Helmand Valley and also parts of the British area of operations or the tactical Helmand area of operations. Some of the shaping, as the military call it, for these operations has already begun.

  Q4  Chairman: You will need to speak up a bit, please. We are all getting on in life and we need to hear what you are saying on this important subject. Could you say why this operation you would expect to be more likely to succeed in taking control of Central Helmand than previous operations over previous years?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think we have to recognise the very substantial increase in resources that there has been this last year, most particularly in response to General McChrystal's requests for additional forces as part of his review of the Afghan campaign. Across Afghanistan he asked for around 40,000 additional troops and that has more or less been met from across the coalition, a large part of that American. In Helmand the situation has improved dramatically. If you went back a year, we were talking about 5,000, 5,500, UK ground holding troops in Helmand,[1] including the Danes, Estonians and some Afghan National Army with responsibility for the whole of the Helmand Valley. From time to time we received assistance from elements like the US Marine Corps, but that was fundamentally the resources that we had then. We are now at a situation where on the ISAF side we have 30,000[2] troops plus around getting up to 10,000 on the Afghan National Army, so 40,000[3] in total in the Helmand Valley. If you take that as well as the very real attempts to improve the tie-up with the Afghan ministries so that we can get civilian effect in there quickly as well, those are the aims of General McChrystal to effectively make a permanent change in the areas concerned, and he has the resources to do so.



  Q5  Chairman: General Mayall, did you want to add anything to that?

  Lieutenant General Mayall: I think we have got a much more coherent NATO-led plan very carefully dovetailed, as the Secretary of State said, with the Afghans. They have taken ownership at the political level, which is extremely important. The Ministries are fully involved and orders issued to the Kandaks. As I say, at every level this has been an integrated plan to get the brief together. I would emphasise the Secretary of State's point on the force ratios and the capacity to bear down on the insurgency across the whole of Helmand with 40,000 as opposed to the slight toothpaste tube effect we always had with previous operations. Where and when we bore down, we had tactical success in the area, but linking it to the wider operational plan that is at the heart of McChrystal's plan was difficult until this year with this real influx both of resources and intellectual capacity.

  Chairman: I do have to say that when the Committee were there, we found a sense of optimism and encouragement, not just amongst the ISAF troops but also amongst the Afghans we spoke to, that would back that up.

  Q6  Mr Jenkin: I would endorse that. It does beg the question, does it not, how we ever thought that 3,500 troops, capital of £1.3 billion over three years, was ever going to be able to do this job. Maybe a question for DCDS (Ops). Could you reiterate the rationale for so clearly signalling in advance of operations which seems to many people to be counterintuitive and, in fact, may expose our troops to additional danger because the Taliban have warning that we are coming in? Could you run through that for us?

  Lieutenant General Mayall: I think it would be difficult not to signal it just by this massive inflow of troops which is very well signalled around the world in the press. The idea that we would not be doing anything with them would beggar belief that the Taliban could not see this. In terms of strategic surprise, I do not think that has ever been attempted. We have tactical surprise because it will be at a time and place of our own choosing where we commit these troops, as you well know. The important thing is also the political background to this: a Karzai government with a cabinet and with a real attempt to reach out to those members of the insurgency who we believe quite strongly, shared by most of the international community, there is scope to bring back into the fold of the body politic and civil society in Afghanistan. There is messaging there which I think is important.

  Mr Ainsworth: General McChrystal repeated this at a NATO meeting in Istanbul at the back end of last week. One needs to understand how absolutely hard Commander ISAF is on civilian casualties. He says, and I totally agree with him, that we will not win in Afghanistan by killing Taliban; we will win in the hearts and minds of Afghan people. He is really hard on this every time I listen to him. This is a fundamental from him. The last thing we want to do is to go into an area and inflict unnecessary civilian casualties. "One is too many" is what comes out of Com ISAF's mouth every time you hear him. Giving the civilian population the opportunity to move away from the fighting is an important part of planning for operations.

  Q7  Linda Gilroy: Secretary of State, in the past there has been a lot of commentary about the lack of equipment, although when we were out in Afghanistan we found a lot of irritation on the part of Service personnel about those stories. However, my question is a forward-looking one. With that surge in numbers of personnel, is there some way in which you can demonstrate to the Committee that there has been a matching surge in equipment?

  Mr Ainsworth: If one looks at the overall numbers in terms of the financial resources that have been put into the operation, I think that proves it without getting into helicopter and vehicle numbers, all of which are well documented and have been repeated often. In 2006 we had around £800 million from the reserve going into the operations and that has gone up this year to £3.5 billion and is due to rise next year to £5 billion. That is the money from the reserve. Additional to that, as I think Members of the Committee will recall, we directed some of the core budget towards the Afghan operation, about £900 million over a three year period, about 1% of the budget, which is additional to that increasing amount of money that is going in from the reserve and the additional cost. As much as anything, that will show the level of resource that is going into the operations in Afghanistan and, of course, that is kit and equipment for the troops. There has been an increase in the troop numbers, as you know, which has meant the amount of resource behind each individual has gone up considerably as well.

  Q8  Mr Hancock: Three quick questions. One is about the Karzai government and how much of this has to be signed off by them before this operation actually kicks into place. Considering the widespread allegations of corruption and duplicity of that government with elements in the country, can we trust them if we have to share that information? Secondly, are the 10,000 troops from the Afghan Army who are going to be responsible for doing the door pushing in this offensive—we are led to believe that is the case—to be trusted to such an extent that this operation can be seen as a joint operation with them, or will it be our troops watching their own backs? The third point is about the warning given. Surely it is in the Taliban's interests not to allow these people to leave, to hold the main population there to act as a shield. What evidence is there that people actually are allowed to leave areas when we are intimating well in advance that we are going to attack and these people will be allowed to just drift away?

  Mr Ainsworth: There is some evidence of people finding it difficult to leave because of IEDs that have been planted and, therefore, there are dangers in journeys involved. We will try to assist in any way that we can to enable civilians to leave the area. That is not only allowing them through our own checkpoints but trying to clear routes so that they can get out. One cannot say that there will not be an attempt by the insurgency to stop people from leaving. We cannot be sure what the tactics of the enemy will be. There has been evidence in other areas of the insurgents being more than happy to encourage civilian casualties and then try to blame them on occasions on the ISAF forces and, therefore, win their own argument for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. We have had some very good statements from President Karzai since the election, his inaugural speech and his speech at the London Conference. He came to the Security Conference in Munich at the weekend and talked again about the need for increasing the Afghan National Army and the commitment of the Government to that. It is absolutely essential that the Afghan government effectively takes leadership of these operations and it is good to hear some of those noises coming out of the Afghan government. We have to involve them to the absolute maximum degree. It is their country at the end of the day and we are trying to get into a position where it is able to stand on its own two feet and does not need the support of the international community any longer.

  Q9  Chairman: Would you endorse a suggestion that was made to us while we were in Afghanistan that working closely alongside Afghan troops was actually for the protection of British troops rather than the threat to British troops?

  Mr Ainsworth: I heard that from a Captain in Nad e-Ali before Christmas. If you get that embedding right, and you are therefore able to pick up on the skills and technical and military capability of our own people with the cultural and local awareness of the Afghan National Army, and if you get those working together you are safer as a result. There will always be things where their local knowledge gives them the edge and if it gets our teams totally embedded in the way that General McChrystal wants then that has to be a positive thing.

  Lieutenant General Mayall: I have seen it in a lot of our operations around the world, and I led quite a lot of the integration efforts when I was in Iraq. When you are fighting a strategic narrative that portrays ISAF as occupiers, one of the best ways to break it is on a daily basis to show Afghan soldiers alongside British, Estonian, Danish and American soldiers. I think it was John McColl who had just come back from Helmand—he had been with the US Marine Corps there—and he said he had seen embedded as far as you would want it to go in bunk beds with an Afghan soldier on this one and US Marine Corps on the top. The effect on the population in terms of low level intelligence, people pointing out IEDs, people going back in the fields trusting them, communicating—it does not matter how good your interpreters are—is, of palpable effect on the whole mood of the operation in the local areas, let alone the actual military operation itself. It is absolutely the right way ahead.

  Q10  Mr Holloway: Rural Afghanistan has its own rules and its own way of life, it is a deeply xenophobic sort of place where all politics is local, and you guys acknowledge that the insurgency is made up of many different groups with many different motivations and grievances. Can you tell me what it is that unites all of these different groups of people, the much smaller part of which are our hardcore enemies, most of whom were not fighting us before we arrived? What unites those groups against us and the Karzai government?

  Mr Ainsworth: I agree with what has been said, and that is there are many motives that the Taliban leadership have been able to capture and harness to their views of the world which are not necessarily shared by large parts of the insurgency, and that is why I very much welcome the emphasis on reintegration. I do not believe, as I have said, that this is something you do after you have won the military campaign, but equally I think you have to try to do it from a position of strength; That is fundamental. There has to be some bottom lines on reintegration and these include support for the Afghan government and the turning away from violence. Given those commitments you have to give people opportunities and that means tackling some of the local grievances that have led them to support the insurgency in some cases. If we can remove some of the reasons for their support then we will split the insurgency and we will be successful a lot more quickly than we otherwise would be.

  Mr Day: Over the years we have done a lot of intelligence assessment on what the insurgency comprises and there is not, and never has been, a single entity, it varies regionally between the north and south and varies within the south. The motives are about half a dozen. In addition to those insurgents who genuinely believe in Jihad, in Islamist extremism, there are people who, as you say, traditionally have fought the government, whichever government; there are those who will fight any foreigner, whichever foreigner; there are those who have local grievances; and there are those who are doing it for the money because economically they have been given a better deal. What we have to deal with is a loose coalition, not a single homogeneous group.

  Chairman: I want to move on.

  Mr Holloway: This is really important. In 2005 when we did our recce to send a brigade to Central Helmand, the Lieutenant Colonel reported that there was not an insurgency in Helmand. What do you say to those who say that what unites the insurgency, all these different groups with these different motivations, a smaller part being the crazies, is that they are united by the hatred of foreign troops in their local areas and any sort of central government that attempts to impose its will on local communities?

  Chairman: I think that is the same as your last question.

  Mr Holloway: It is a central argument, Chairman.

  Chairman: It is repetition. Robert Key will move on to the political position following the London Conference.

  Q11  Robert Key: Thank you, Chairman. Why was only one Afghan woman invited to the London Conference?

  Mr Ainsworth: I was unaware that was the case. We invited the Afghan government and we invited the neighbouring countries, all of the people who were involved in supporting the Afghan government. I do not know what the make-up was of every delegation that was there.

  Q12  Robert Key: You quite rightly said, Secretary of State, that you have to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. It seems to me that ISAF is only at the moment engaged with half the Afghan people, the male half, and I think this is very important. It raises the question of what is more important to the ISAF mission, what women think in Afghanistan or what Afghan men think of their women.

  Mr Ainsworth: To take a figure like that, if you are correct, can be very misleading. You could take another figure and say there are a lot more Afghan women in parliament than there are in this Parliament in which we sit, and a lot more than representing the party from which you come. We could say that Afghan society is a lot more progressive on that basis than the Conservative Party. I think that would be fundamentally wrong and is not a claim that I would want to make without a little more study. We need to be a bit more sophisticated about this. Let us be realistic. Afghan society does not share all of the values that we do here. We have to be culturally sensitive to what is a conservative Muslim society, but fundamental rights are important and we want to see them honoured and have always made representations in that direction. With all of the difficulties that there are, I think Afghanistan has made substantial improvements in that direction and that can be shown by people in schools, girls in schools, all kinds of different measures.

  Q13  Robert Key: That is an interesting defensive answer, Secretary of State, but it does not convince me. How do we know what Afghan women think about the presence of foreign forces in their country?

  Mr Ainsworth: What we do know is that there is no support from the Afghan population for the insurgents, the support is falling. It is something that is peddled in parts of our media that there is support for the insurgency, but that is not the case. The ordinary Afghan people, whether they are women or men, do not support the Taliban, do not want to see a return of the Taliban government, but, yes, they want to see improved governance in Afghanistan, they want to see the government tackling corruption and operating more effectively than they have done in the past.

  Q14  Robert Key: I think that is a commendable aspiration but you have not answered the question. How do we know what Afghan women think?

  Mr Ainsworth: There are Afghan women's forums that give us their views.

  Mr Day: One of the sources is the Afghan Women's Leaders' Priorities for Stabilisation, the statement they made on 27 January before the London Conference. I think that makes it pretty clear that they are very much in favour of what the international community is doing. There are some things that they would like us to do differently, but they say: "Afghan women are the first to benefit from stability and pay the heaviest price for the resurgence in violence". They are "mobilised as never before to protect the gains they have made with the help of the international community since 2001 ... Fundamental to progress in Afghanistan is enhanced security on the ground". There is some evidence.

  Q15  Robert Key: Could I ask the General if that is the experience of British forces when they meet Afghan women and families. When they are patrolling, for example, do they find there is any way that they can understand what Afghan women are thinking?

  Lieutenant General Mayall: Picking up the Secretary of State's point, you know the dynamics of a Muslim society, particularly the conservative element. When you go to a house, as you know, you take your shoes off or whatever, but you will not be allowed to talk to the women in the house. We have female soldiers, we have female officers, I have to say normally with the agreement of the local village elders, who have an understandable concern about challenges to their particular culture, who are able to engage with the female population in the villages over issues of hygiene, women's rights, what reconstruction is about. It is a very useful way where we can use it because in all these societies, within these families and communities, the women hold a very interesting role, not to the public face of it but within their communities. Part of our messaging of trying to keep the young men out of the clutches of the Taliban is where we can ever precisely convince the women within these societies of the benefits of security. It is difficult with the ISAF army that is fundamentally men connecting with a conservative society to have many points of contact within which you can do this. Lindy Cameron, for instance, is an absolutely classic case, a two star DFID lady in charge of our Provincial Reconstruction Team, and it makes it much easier for her to have that access and precisely sell the sorts of messages that Jon was talking about. We are very conscious of the potential of using the female influence in areas like Helmand in order to support the move towards security.

  Q16  Robert Key: Believe me, I do understand why the culture is quite different and we are not going to change that culture, of course I understand that, but I am still very concerned that ISAF should give a higher profile to reconciliation between Taliban and Afghan civil groups, for example. Is that a priority for ISAF?

  Mr Ainsworth: Sorry, we should give a higher priority to?

  Q17  Robert Key: To reconciliation, to rebuilding civil society which, of course, includes the whole range of women's organisations, like the Afghan Women Skills Development Centre, and that is something I have not been convinced of. I would like to know if that is seen as a priority in terms of winning hearts and minds.

  Mr Ainsworth: There are conservative elements within the insurgency and there are conservative elements within the government. I think we have to be mindful and get back to the main reason for why we are in Afghanistan. Yes, of course we can have lots of measures of social progress in Afghanistan that give us the opportunity to understand whether we are making progress at all, but the reason that we are there is because of our own national security.

  Chairman: I am going to stop you there because I want to bring in Madeleine Moon, if I may.

  Q18  Mrs Moon: Reconciliation and reintegration is very much a part of what has come out of the London Conference. When we were in Afghanistan there was quite a mixed message in terms of how this was viewed by people from the Government. Two of the Vice-Presidents we met were not happy with the idea. Coming back from Afghanistan, we also met with parliamentarians who were in London at the same time as the London Conference, many of whom again expressed concern about the concept and also expressed a high level of concern that parliamentarians were not being consulted and were not being approached and engaged by the military. Also, they were expressing concern that they found it difficult to get back to their constituencies to pass on the message of what change was taking place. Finally, there was a quote from the Afghan Women's Leadership Forum prior to the London Conference, but post the London Conference they put out a second press release expressing a great deal of concern about the concept of reintegration and reconciliation and urging that women were an integral part of that since they had often been the victims of many of the policies and attitudes of the Taliban. Can we have confirmation that you will be talking to the parliamentarians and involving women in the whole process of reconciliation and reintegration?

  Mr Ainsworth: Let us try to unravel this. This is not an American-led initiative, a British-led initiative or an ISAF-led initiative, this is an Afghan-led initiative. We want the Afghan government to lead the initiative on reconciliation and reintegration. Let us also separate out those two words because "reconciliation" and "reintegration" get mixed up in what we are saying. Largely when we are talking about reconciliation we are talking about higher-level commanders, the leaders of the Taliban. I do not think that the prospects yet of reconciliation are there. I do not think there is a desire yet by the overwhelming majority of the leadership of the Taliban to reconcile. It may come. It will come in time and it will come if we are seen to make progress and, therefore, they believe this is the only way for them and there is no other route to victory. Reintegration is another thing. On reintegration we are talking about the lower down members of the ranks of the insurgency, many of whom, as I have said, do not share the agenda of the leadership. Reintegration is going on, has gone on for some time, and we should be encouraging it. We should try to split off those elements of the insurgency who are wedded to al-Qaeda, an international Jihadist agenda, from those who have more local reasons for joining the insurgency. That is what we have been urging and that is what is happening now. It is not new, it has been happening for some time, but the London Conference has given real impetus to that.

  Chairman: Secretary of State, when you receive the uncorrected minutes of today, please would you go over the question that Madeleine Moon has just asked and reconsider it in your own mind because there may be actions you will need to take in relation to the Afghan government.

  Linda Gilroy: Chairman, can I just ask further if we could meet the Secretary of State. Madeleine and I were both out in Afghanistan and we met some very feisty women parliamentarians and the message from both parliamentarians and women was that they really want to be involved in this but felt left out of it. I think some further conversation with you would be very useful.

  Chairman: A meeting has been requested. I would like to be there as well, if I am allowed.

  Q19  Mr Hancock: I would just like to go back, if I may, to what Mr Day said about this intensive scrutiny and intelligence that you have done on the make-up of the insurgency. It would appear, would it not, that the insurgency is able to rekindle itself time and time again and they have an unlimited amount of finances. Would you say that is a true statement that they have a virtually unlimited pot of money to play with?

  Mr Day: I do not think it is an unlimited pot of money. The one group that I omitted from the list of motives that I gave earlier was drugs. There are clear linkages between narcotics and funding the insurgency.

  Q20  Mr Hancock: So we continue to have young men and women killed on our streets with drugs cultivated in Afghanistan and the Taliban is able to re-arm and re-equip and re-personnel their forces by the drugs that they cultivate in Afghanistan and kill our soldiers on the streets in Afghanistan. We have nothing to prevent that cycle going on, have we?

  Mr Ainsworth: That is simply not true.

  Q21  Mr Hancock: Where is the evidence?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have seen a 30% reduction in poppy cultivation in Helmand Province. The most effective poppy eradication programme was led by Governor Mangal with his Food Zone initiative issuing wheat as an alternative to farmers and then threatening eradication if they continued to sow poppies. That saw a 30% reduction.

  Mr Hancock: How come heroin has never been so cheap in this country as it is today, mainly because it is sourced from Afghanistan if that is a true statement that you have ceased the cultivation?

  Chairman: I want to move on.

  Q22  Mr Hancock: Can I then ask how realistic is this question of reconciliation and reintegration based on trying to get the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government as a proposition based on all the intelligence that Mr Day told us you have?

  Mr Ainsworth: How realistic is what?

  Q23  Mr Hancock: The belief that members of the Taliban will actually want to negotiate or are willing to negotiate with the Afghan government?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think I tried to address that in my answer to Madeleine.

  Q24  Mr Hancock: No, I do not think you did, Secretary of State.

  Mr Ainsworth: Reconciliation at the top end of the Taliban command is still some way away.

  Q25  Mr Hancock: Is the Taliban's success the fact that they can force the Karzai government to close down hundreds of girls' schools and sack hundreds of Afghan women teachers? Is that the price the Karzai government is prepared to pay for negotiating with the Taliban? Does that seem fair and equitable to you?

  Mr Ainsworth: Having the ability to offer alternative opportunities, jobs, removing local grievances from parts of the insurgency is an important part of this kind of campaign. It has gone on before, our efforts have stepped it up and there is nothing wrong with that continuing alongside an attempt to really gear up the drive to provide security. With the additional forces that are available, with the growing Afghan National Army, because this is not something that we expect the Afghan government to do from a position of weakness, we expect them to do it from a position of strength, by October 2011 the Afghan National Army will be 171,000 strong and the Afghan National Police 134,000 strong. We do not expect them to negotiate with an enemy from a position of weakness, we expect them to peel off parts of the insurgency as part of a process of winning the confidence of the Afghan people.

  Q26  Mr Hancock: In that case, how would you suggest that we avoid creating perverse incentives for the non-combatants in this situation of reintegration, of buying people out of the insurgency?

  Mr Ainsworth: Your question almost presupposes that what is being offered is what has been reported, and that is blatant bribery to people to lay down their guns. That is not what is going to be offered. What are going to be offered are alternative opportunities, jobs in some cases. At the weekend President Karzai started talking about conscription. This is something that he has started talking about. There are lots of ways of providing alternative lives for people who have chosen to join the insurgency without providing perverse incentives, which is something that we would not want to do.

  Q27  Mr Hancock: What will the role of UK forces on the ground be in implementing this policy? Who will monitor and enforce this scheme?

  Mr Ainsworth: This will be Afghan-led. It must be Afghan-led.

  Q28  Mr Hancock: It will be solely Afghan-led?

  Mr Ainsworth: Yes.

  Q29  Mr Hancock: So we will have little or no part to play in who decides who gets what and where?

  Mr Ainsworth: We are involved in advising and assisting the Afghan government at every level.

  Q30  Mr Hancock: What safeguards are we expecting to be put in place to prevent non-combatants who have taken some inducement to leave the insurgency returning to the war?

  Mr Ainsworth: The structure of the alternatives that are offered is the main safeguard. We are not proposing in some kind of a simplistic way to bribe people to put down their guns so they can pick up their guns tomorrow. That would achieve absolutely nothing at great expense.

  Chairman: We have not got a huge amount of time left on Afghanistan, but on Pakistan I will go to David Borrow.

  Q31  Mr Borrow: The problems in Afghanistan are also linked to the problems in Pakistan. People move back and forth between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We have heard that there are reconciliation and other measures in place in Afghanistan, and that is the aim, but to what extent are there similar measures in place, or will there be similar measures in place, in Pakistan? Is any work being done to prepare for work that dovetails in with the work that is being done in Afghanistan?

  Mr Ainsworth: The Committee will know that the Pakistani government was prepared to reach out to parts of the insurgency in Pakistan in any case and got very little back in return. As a matter of fact, they wound up with insurgents only about 60km from the capital. The trend in the last year or so has been to confront the insurgency in Pakistan and we have welcomed that. We welcome the Pakistani government being prepared to stand up to people who effectively threaten the existence of the Pakistani state. There have been military operations in the Swat Valley and they have now continued into Waziristan where they have confronted the insurgency on that side of the border. That potentially, added to our own greater capability on the Afghan side, could be what will lead to the kind of progress that we need to see in the next year and the quiet confidence that there is from Com ISAF now in a way that probably was not there six months ago.

  Q32  Mr Borrow: If you are saying, which we accept, that we are partnering the Afghan government and therefore have a more direct role in Afghanistan than we have in Pakistan, there is still going to be a need for detailed and proper coordination across the borders in terms of what the Pakistan government is doing on its side of the border with what we are doing in partnership with the Afghan government on the Afghan side of the border. What the Committee wants is some reassurance that that coordination is actually taking place.

  Mr Ainsworth: We help and encourage the Pakistani government to the maximum degree that we can, but they do not need the kind of assistance that is needed by the Afghan government. They have perfectly capable armed forces and they are a proud nation who want to secure their own country. Yes, of course they will work with us and we are anxious to work with them to the maximum degree that they are prepared to accept our assistance.

  Mr Day: The only thing I would add is that there is now a much closer relationship between Com ISAF and ISAF in general and the Pakistani authorities on the other side of the border. There are now cross-border mechanisms that are designed explicitly to do what you are talking about.

  Q33  Chairman: I think the questions that were asked before were about reconciliation and reintegration within Afghanistan and you have given a military answer. I think that the issue in Pakistan may not be an issue of the competence of their Pakistani armed forces, which is beyond question, but of reconciliation and reintegration within Pakistan in the same way as it would happen in Afghanistan. Do you have anything to add on that?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think the Pakistanis have felt the need over the last year or so to show the insurgents they face that they have been prepared to stand up to them. Yes, of course we would encourage them to reach out to people who are not a threat to the Pakistani state, but they felt they were in that position this last year, so reconciliation or reintegration with an insurgency that was of growing capability was not something for that period of time the Pakistanis saw as a priority. It is a matter for them how quickly over the coming months they are prepared to hold out the hand of friendship to the people who they have felt they have had to confront and to fight.

  Mr Day: The operations that they conducted in the Swat area from their perspective were exemplified by what we would call the comprehensive approach to a much greater extent than I think we have seen before. That is putting in people behind the military to do the sort of development and reconciliation work that you are talking about. From our perspective, we have seen a real and significant shift in the Pakistani position over the last two years.

  Q34  Mr Holloway: Whilst the Pakistani security establishment seem to understand the threat of insurgency within their own borders, a while ago a former head of ISI said to me that they would prefer chaos in Afghanistan or a Taliban government than a government that was pro-India that could be provide a second front in a future war. Was not a gigantic diplomatic effort between Pakistan and India something that was lacking from the London Conference?

  Mr Ainsworth: India has an important role to play. You are absolutely right that Pakistan's focus on India has led them to be maybe double-minded towards elements within their own country. I think they have been confronted by what is an existential threat to the state in the last couple of years, so we have seen a new focus from the Pakistani government on the insurgents.

  Q35  Linda Gilroy: A lot has been made of 2011 in terms of expecting to see some progress. Can you tell the Committee what indications you think the British public should see by mid-2011 that will point to the success of the new allied strategy?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have been through a very difficult year of decision-making, both within Afghanistan and the wider international community, as we decided on the resources requested by the commander and the elections took place in Afghanistan. We are now in a position where those resources having been found and a new political focus having been brought to bear on the civilian side we have got to see some progress in 2010. Nobody should put artificial times on when certain things will happen, but within this year, never mind by 2011, I think we will begin to be able to transition some of the provinces of Afghanistan to Afghan security control. How far we are going to be able to go on that, I do not know. It has got to be conditions-based. It would be an absolute tragedy if we were to hand over a particular part of the country only then to go backwards, so I think we have got to be cautious about when we hand over to Afghan control. With the growing capability of the Afghan National Army we should be able to see some of the provinces of Afghanistan with an Afghan security lead some time this year and that will be one indication of progress.

  Q36  Mr Jenkin: All of this hinges on the ability of ISAF and the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan to deliver the Afghan National Army at size and at capability.

  Mr Ainsworth: Yes.

  Q37  Mr Jenkin: I wonder whether DCDS (Ops) would say something about how achievable this really is. If we were going to double the size of our own Army I think we would want more than 18 months to do it.

  Lieutenant General Mayall: Your point is extremely well made, Mr Jenkin. The NTM-A is the key to growing the size of the army. I was listening to Simon Levey on the Today programme this morning and he kept very firmly within lane that he is responsible for -generating the Afghan National Army. They are pushing them out at about 7,500 a month now. The recruiting pool is extraordinarily well topped up. We need to extend that to the southern Pashtun belt very heavily tied in to the security advances there, reintegration, etc. The capacity bit, which you are absolutely right to focus on, you do not turn a soldier out simply by giving him a uniform and a rifle, is very much aided by the whole concept of this absolutely embedded partnering at every level. The key to leveraging the capacity of the Afghan National Army, and I focus on them at the moment rather than the Afghan National Police, is definitely via the medium of embedded partnering. I have seen it in Afghanistan and I have done it myself in Oman. The competence level from ISAF, fundamentally Western armies, embedded in growing armies absolutely accelerates their growth in capacity. I think we will make the targets. You are quite right to focus on the capacity. The operations we are doing in Moshtarak will be an early indication, and even the way they dealt with Kabul the other day and the attacks in Lashkar Gah are encouraging.

  Q38  Mr Jenkin: We were, however, briefed on critical shortfalls and weaknesses in the NTM training component to which the British Armed Forces could very easily contribute. For want of a 150 more personnel, we could completely populate the crucial training element. Secretary of State, is it seriously prudent for us to stick to the existing cap, particularly when the training of the Afghan National Army is such a vital and crucial element of the capability that we are trying to create and, moreover, if we put British personnel into those roles we will leave lasting British influence in Afghanistan if this is a success, which we hope it will be?

  Mr Ainsworth: First of all, let me say we do not recognise the 150 figure that you have got here in theatre, but we have been asked to make an additional contribution to the training capability in Kabul. We are asked for about 20 in the near future and then about another 70 later on in the programme, and we will see whether or not we can do that. To suggest that our only input into training is those people we have got up in Kabul is wrong because we have got "OMLTs" down in Helmand and with partnering, as General Mayall has just said, the training is the responsibility of everybody from headquarters right down to people who are holding the ground in every part of Helmand Valley. Increasingly our focus is going to be on training, mentoring and partnering with the Afghan National Police. We will try to make the contribution that we have been asked to make on the training front, which is not 150, it is 20 now and another 70 later on. You know that the Germans have just announced another 500 and we are hoping that the French will make a contribution as well some time in the future.

  Q39  Mr Jenkin: With the lack of relatively small numbers, tiny numbers, is the manpower cap set for Afghanistan worth observing? Should we not just make that little bit of extra effort to fill those gaps?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have seen a very substantial increase in manpower over the last year.

  Q40  Mr Jenkin: I understand all that. You know what I am asking.

  Mr Ainsworth: 8,100 to 9,500. We have to look at the sustainability of the force and we have to make sure that we are able to supply them with everything that the British public would want.

  Q41  Mr Jenkin: So the manpower cap stays, come what may?

  Mr Ainsworth: I do not think we want to revisit the manpower cap. On relatively small numbers we may well be able to meet what we are being asked to do.

  Q42  Chairman: You accept that there is a manpower cap, do you?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have 9,500 troops and we keep that under review.

  Q43  Chairman: Do you accept that there is a manpower cap?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have 9,500 now and we will keep that figure under review.

  Q44  Mr Jenkin: I am reminded of the poem about for the want of a nail, for the want of a shoe and for the want of a horse. Are we not cutting off our noses to spite our faces by making the manpower cap such a religious shibboleth?

  Mr Ainsworth: That argument might be something that would hold some water if we are not able to meet what we are being asked. We are looking at it.

  Q45  Mr Jenkin: Is this a Treasury constraint?

  Mr Ainsworth: No, it is not a Treasury constraint. We will keep those figures under review. We have had a very substantial increase in manpower in Afghanistan from 8,100 up to 9,500 and if that needs to be lifted then of course it will be, but there is no current intention to do so.

  Q46  Mr Jenkin: It seems very counterproductive from my point of view, and I believe from the British interest point of view. We are overstretching our Armed Forces to achieve an end and yet for the want of very, very small extra numbers, which we know would be available in the short-term—

  Mr Ainsworth: This is a coalition effort. We are making by far and away the second largest contribution. The Germans were very welcome in announcing 500 additional trainers at the back end of last week. That is very welcome. We are hoping that France will also make an announcement and increase their contribution. All we have been asked for at the moment is 20 and potentially another 70 further down the line. We will try to make that contribution and we probably will be able to. This is an ISAF operation. We are part of it and we are already making a very, very considerable contribution.

  Q47  Chairman: Secretary of State, there are some countries which have announced their intention of taking their forces away. Are there discussions going on to suggest that they might like to withdraw their forces from places like Kandahar but could well think about replacing those forces with training troops in perhaps Kabul which would be less in the frontline but just as useful?

  Mr Ainsworth: Yes, absolutely. We had a NATO meeting at the end of last week and I talked to my Dutch and Canadian counterparts about what future intentions they have and whether or not they can increase their contribution to training.

  Chairman: We will move on to the police.

  Q48  Mrs Moon: Despite the problems in terms of the training of the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police are a much bigger problem and there is a definite need to improve the quality of training, improve the quality of the recruits and improve issues of corruption. What are you doing about that? Also, one of the things that the Afghan Women's Leadership Forum has also stressed is the need to increase the number of Afghan women in the police force. Can you see any potential to do that? Are there problems getting British police trainers to go to Afghanistan to do some of that training?

  Mr Ainsworth: I have seen a big increase in emphasis on the police and quite rightly so because, as you said, it is a bigger problem. Yes, the Afghan National Army needs to be grown to the figures that are required, but the police have got the real interface with the people thereafter and both the quality and quantity on the police side is very important if we are going to make the police part of the solution rather than part of the problem in Afghanistan. We have an academy in Helmand which we have funded to produce police officers and we have increased the numbers of police officers that will flow from that, and we have some, although not many, female police trainers in Afghanistan. Our ability to get civilian police deployed to Afghanistan is not easy, but we will do everything we can to improve in that regard and make the contribution that we can in that area.

  Q49  Chairman: A final question on Afghanistan. We are just about to come up to an election which may introduce the issue of purdah. By the way, is the Election on 6 May?

  Mr Ainsworth: Which election? There will be local elections on 6 May I am told, and was told!

  Q50  Chairman: There will be some important decisions which will need to be made during the run-up to the Election. It would not meet the wishes of the people of this country or of the world if those decisions were to be delayed or obfuscated by some obscure notion of election purdah. Are there going to be, or are there already underway, cross-party talks to consider how best to get through the normal political difficulties in this country that ought not to be such a constraint?

  Mr Ainsworth: There is no problem with decision-making. There are potentially problems with announcements during purdah and we need to have in place whatever mechanisms are necessary in order for us to be able to deal with this situation. That means, where appropriate, cross-party cooperation in the period. I have got no problem with that whatsoever. If it is an issue, it will be dealt with and dealt with in that way.

  Q51  Chairman: Have you had a discussion with the Permanent Secretary about whether it might be an issue?

  Mr Ainsworth: I had a discussion as a result of your asking the question only the other day. I am told there are no problems with regard to decision-making. I do want to check because part of decision-making is your ability to make announcements, so that is something I do want to check on and make sure we are able to do that to the extent that it is appropriate during the election period.

  Q52  Mrs Moon: Before we finish on Afghanistan, I think it would be wrong if those Members of the Committee who went to Afghanistan did not acknowledge that at every level and in every meeting, whether it was British, American, other military, the Afghan government, the one thing that was consistently said was how impressed they were with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand and that it was seen as an exemplar of cooperation between civilian, military and Afghan communication and working in partnership. Can I also say they were particularly impressed with the work done to cut the use of poppy as a crop and to move into wheat. Those of us who were there were very, very much made aware of that.

  Mr Ainsworth: This is an issue. We have forged a mechanism in Helmand Province that is extremely effective. What we as a government tried to raise within the Green Paper is that we need to try to institutionalise that capability, the comprehensive approach effectively, to bring home some of the lessons that we learned in Afghanistan so that if ever we are involved in any other operations we are able to do this day one and not learn the lessons down the line.

  Q53  Chairman: You are right in saying we are just coming on to the Green Paper so I wonder if we could have a change of personnel, please, apart from you, Secretary of State. We would invite you to remain where you are.

  Mr Ainsworth: Tom McKane on the Civil Service side led the work on the Green Paper and an awful lot of it was done by Vincent Devine, a lot of the writing, a lot of the chasing and a lot of the consultation that went on, so we thought this was the most appropriate team to field to you.

  Q54  Chairman: Thank you very much and welcome to both of you as well. Can we start with the document called the Strategy for Defence which you issued in the autumn of last year, which was intended I think to have a four year time frame which would span perhaps, depending on what you say, the period for the Strategic Defence Review? How would a Strategic Defence Review and the Strategy for Defence relate to each other? How long would you expect a Strategic Defence Review to take?

  Mr Ainsworth: The Strategic Defence Review will start immediately after the Election. As soon as we have secured another majority and a fourth term, we will commence the Strategic Defence Review. I would anticipate it will take some months to complete. You are right. The Strategy for Defence was designed as a bridging capability—we did not foresee huge changes in circumstances in the next couple of years—and to give us the ability to take the appropriate decisions in the intervening period. Flowing from a Strategic Defence Review will come new planning assumptions which would supersede the Strategy for Defence. Whether they follow the same format of the Strategy for Defence or some other format would be a matter for the decision makers during the Strategic Defence Review.

  Mr McKane: The Strategy for Defence was very clear that it was an interim strategy and it could only be that because it was leading up to the Strategic Defence Review. The intention, as the Secretary of State has said, is that coming out of the Strategic Defence Review we would produce a refreshed Strategy for Defence and an associated direction from the Secretary of State and the Defence Board to the Department.

  Q55  Chairman: The Strategy for Defence, although it said it was intended to last until 2014, actually is intended to last until the end of the Strategic Defence Review.

  Mr McKane: Yes. It took four years as the period over which it was looking but, because it was clear that we were coming up to a Strategic Defence Review, we knew that we would produce a new one after that review was completed whenever that turns out to be.

  Q56  Chairman: The Green Paper suggests that we will have regular defence reviews. "Regular" does not mean the same as "frequent" and it does not mean the same as "every Parliament" but you do suggest that you intend to legislate for regular defence reviews. Would you expect to legislate in this Parliament or, if you were to win the Election, in the next Parliament?

  Mr Ainsworth: We are not going to be able to legislate between now and the General Election. There is a clear intention to legislate, to provide for frequent defence reviews.

  Q57  Chairman: No; it is for regular defence reviews, not for frequent ones.

  Mr Ainsworth: For regular defence reviews. It is not as simple as it is in the United States of America where they have a fixed four year period of office and they can therefore arrange for a quadrennial defence review. I am certain that we can get ourselves to a situation by some mechanism or other. My view is that we should have one every Parliament notwithstanding that there are, there have been in history and there may well be again from time to time short Parliaments where that would not be appropriate. We have to find some kind of formulation that does not mean that we have to have a defence review because we have had a general election in very short order. I am certain that we can get round that and that we can legislate to provide for a defence review, let us say, every four years or every five years, the length of a Parliament.

  Q58  Mr Jenkin: On the question of key strategic questions, a rather bold statement sticks out of the Green Paper and I quote: "This Government believes the UK's interests are best served by continuing to play an active, global role including through the use of armed force when required." Is there not a difficulty? The Strategic Defence Review has to follow on from other things. The document mentions the National Security Strategy for example. Where is the UK strategy? Who holds the UK's strategic concept? Does such a document exist?

  Mr Ainsworth: The National Security Strategy is meant to provide that over-arching framework within which we conducted the Green Paper and within which we will conduct a Strategic Defence Review. The statement made I think is very much one that I would agree to and endorse. I do not believe that we can retreat from a global role in this regard. We have to of course look at how we then afford—and what our level of ambition is—to play that global role if we are going to provide security for our people.

  Q59  Mr Jenkin: I too endorse the comment and I think it is in fact the underpinning of a potentially sound review. It is the Ministry of Defence speaking, not the whole government. We have from the Foreign Office Active Diplomacy for a Changing World March 2006, a rather thick document about what the Foreign Office does rather than a strategic document; and later on a policy review in 2007 by the Cabinet Office, Building on Progress, Britain in the World, but again rather a lengthy document, not a short, strategic document. It is the view of the Defence Committee that it is vital that the strategic review is set in the context of a coherent UK strategy reflecting long term strategic trends and encompassing UK foreign policy in the National Security Strategy. Where is that work being done? Is it not important that that work is done in order to underpin a defence review that is going to be relevant to the UK's long term strategic interests?

  Mr Ainsworth: When we raise partnership as a major issue and the partnerships with our external partners, our allies, the alliances which we joined, part of the reason the partnership was raised there was as an absolute requirement for us to work more comprehensively with other government departments as well. We have done that in the production of the Green Paper and wider than government as well. The Foreign Office have absolutely been involved with this, as has DFID, but we have tried to reach out well beyond government too with the Defence Advisory Forum, with the encouragement of other organisations to have their input as well. What we wanted was a national debate, not just a government debate, let alone not just a Ministry of Defence debate. Of course it has to be grounded in the close working of particularly those three departments that face the international side of policy.

  Mr Devine: I would first like to stress that we did consult very closely. Although this is a Ministry of Defence document, there is nothing in this that other parts of government would disagree with. We restated that point so clearly in the Paper to ensure there were no unintended consequences. This is a document that is primarily about asking questions but where there are certainties such as that it is important we signal, not least to our allies and partners, that the UK remains committed to a global role and committed to the Armed Forces playing an important role within that. I think that does no more than repeat language which was already in the National Security Strategy, perhaps not expressed quite so baldly as that, but it is in the National Security Strategy.

  Q60  Mr Jenkin: There are limitations in the National Security Strategy. It is a relatively defensive document, as one might imagine, concentrating as much on domestic security as global issues. Would you agree that perhaps it is timely for the government and maybe an incoming government to do quite a major reassessment of what we mean by our global role and what the objectives of having a global capability actually are, right down to basics, down to brass tacks, which has not been done for some time?

  Mr Ainsworth: We flagged those issues up as part of the Green Paper.

  Q61  Mr Jenkin: Is the rest of the Government listening because I am sure the Ministry of Defence is engaged with this.

  Mr Ainsworth: As both Vincent and I have said to you, the whole of the Government was involved in this process, not just the Ministry of Defence in isolation.

  Q62  Mr Borrow: I want to come on to the interaction between the Strategic Defence Review and the procurement process and the period of time it will take after the General Election before the SDR is completed. Obviously we have already made decisions on certain big ticket items, the design of carriers and the issue of fast jets, so there are certain major procurement decisions that have already been made. There are others that need to be made or need to be finished off. It is the extent to which they either pre-empt the SDR or are delayed in anticipation of the SDR or are massaged in terms of the spending because of the overall spending constraints which any government will face after the Election and how that all interacts. Perhaps the first question is: how long would it take to get to an SDR and have you given much thought as to how the decisions that have already been made will impact and pre-empt certain aspects of the SDR.

  Mr Ainsworth: The only capability we explicitly excluded from the Review was the Trident system, having taken the decision off the back of the White Paper in 2006 to replace the submarines. An SDR will have to start as soon as a new government is formed. Capability is going to be the absolute central part of that Strategic Defence Review.

  Q63  Chairman: You have not excluded the carriers from the Strategic Defence Review?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have not excluded anything other than the Trident. What I have said and I do not hear anybody arguing with is that, unless the Strategic Defence Review took a pretty strange and radical direction, the carriers will be needed. We have committed to the carriers. We have signed contracts for the carriers and we are cutting the steel for the carriers as we speak. I would be amazed if carrier capability was not part of what came out of the Strategic Defence Review.

  Q64  Chairman: And the Joint Strike Fighter?

  Mr Ainsworth: How much would the Committee think I should get into in terms of individual procurement decisions? This was a Green Paper; it was not the Strategic Defence Review. This was designed to ask the questions, to flag up the issues. In the Strategic Defence Review we will have to address that.

  Chairman: I rather agree with you on that.

  Q65  Mr Hamilton: I find it surprising that Trident has been excluded from the debate when we are in the financial crisis that the country faces. Surely everything should be in the pot?

  Mr Ainsworth: The ideal is that you would review all these things together. The needs of the procurement time line for the new submarines were such that we had to take a decision in 2006. If we want a replacement submarine for the time when the existing fleet goes out of service in the mid-2020s, that decision had to be taken then. That decision effectively was brought forward to that time. Should we be revisiting it?

  Mr Hamilton: Yes.

  Mr Ainsworth: Our decision, against your advice, is to exclude it and to accept that that decision is taken.

  Q66  Chairman: How do you square the answer you have just given on Trident with the answer you have just given on carriers?

  Mr Ainsworth: I square it very easily. The decision was taken very recently.

  Q67  Chairman: The logic is extraordinary, is it not? They are both the same type of decision and yet you have made diametrically opposite conclusions as to whether they should be in the Strategic Defence Review.

  Mr Ainsworth: I think the deterrent is something on its own and that is why we dealt with it in that way.

  Q68  Chairman: You believe that the issues arising out of the deterrent—namely the entire concept of how a deterrent works in a multi-polar world—should not be discussed in the context of the Strategic Defence Review, do you?

  Mr Ainsworth: If we are to maintain our capability, decisions have to be taken on a particular time frame. They were.

  Q69  Chairman: They were hardly discussed in the deterrent debate.

  Mr Ainsworth: Whose fault is that? We produced a White Paper. We had a three month consultation. We did everything. I remember the then Secretary of State did everything that he possibly could. He walked and talked his head off trying to consult people on the future of the deterrent at that time. If other people were not prepared to engage with us, that is a problem for them. I was involved in the organisation of some of those consultations and we had great difficulty getting people to actually engage with us at that time.

  Linda Gilroy: The Defence Committee did engage with that.

  Chairman: We had three Reports and we did not actually discuss the concept of deterrence.

  Q70  Mr Borrow: Obviously the SDR has to deal with capabilities. I accept that, but in looking forward to what capabilities are required and what the role of our Armed Services are, is bound to take into account what kit we already have, what kit we are in the process of building and what kit we are already negotiated to produce. It is not being done on a blank sheet of paper; it is being done with some architectural capability already there and that will influence inevitably the outcome of the SDR, whichever government is in power. Am I right?

  Mr Ainsworth: You can never start with an entirely blank sheet, but you should try to start with as much conceptual thinking as you can if you want to get to the best possible configuration of capability. Yes, of course this is not year zero. There are things that have been ordered that are partly built, that are committed to, and all of that would have to be taken into account, in my view, during the Strategic Defence Review.

  Q71  Linda Gilroy: In relation to the questions that Mr Jenkin was asking earlier and the ones just posed by Mr Borrow, I can see the key strategic questions on page nine of the summary Green Paper and I understand you to say that those are being posed as much to other government departments as to the wider world, Secretary of State, but to what extent will we see a major shift in foreign security policy, the National Security Strategy, in the Strategic Defence Review, the sort of east of Suez question that was posed in a previous era? Is that likely to emerge in this Strategic Defence Review, in your view, or are we in a more evolutionary sort of situation?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think we have to be pretty radical about how we do our business, but I do not believe—and I think this is brought out in the questions that we face; it is for other people to have their view as well—that we can afford to defend the interests of our country within our own territory or within our own region. We have to be important players in the architecture of security that exists in the wider world. If we are not, then we will not have the influence that will be necessary to protect our national interests and our national security. That has consequences for the kind of Armed Forces that we need and the kind of equipment that we procure. Let us just look at it from a self-interest point of view. What proportion of our gas now comes from the Gulf? If you just take that as a simple sort of issue, we are totally dependent for a proportion of our energy on the Strait of Hormuz and the Indian Ocean where we have piracy considerations. I think we need to confront the notion because it does have attraction that we can defend from the goal line, as we said in the Green Paper.

  Q72  Mrs Moon: You talked about how our wider role in the world impacts on defence but also again, going back to page nine, you talk about the Armed Forces and their integration into the wider National Security Strategy, the contribution the Armed Forces make in ensuring security and the contribution to resilience within the UK. You have said it will take a few months to complete and that you are working with other government departments. There is no actual mention of the Olympics. What role are the Olympics going to play in the Strategic Defence Review and your analysis of the wider role of the Ministry of Defence in that internal security issue? Will that be part of it? Will you be looking at it and will you be having to look at the cost implications of that in terms of the spending that we will be able to do in terms of external security in the longer term?

  Mr Ainsworth: The planning for security for the Olympics cannot wait for a Strategic Defence Review and is being done now. The issue that is being raised there is that the general trend over a period of time has been to increase the level of capability of other institutions, most particularly the police, and therefore be less of a burden for our Armed Forces, jobs like at the one end providing capability during a fire dispute and things like that. The question is raised: have we gone as far as we need to go in that regard? Have we gone too far? What is the role of our Armed Forces in the internal security design for the country? There has been some work done on this and we wanted to flag that up.

  Mr Devine: I think that is right. Certainly our planning currently for support to the Olympics was at the back of our minds when we addressed this issue. It was in earlier drafts. There has been a clear trend since 2003 to reduce the role of the Armed Forces within the UK. I think the SDR will wish to consider whether that trend should continue, should be reversed or should stay as it is.

  Q73  Mrs Moon: With the capability currently required for Afghanistan, will that be ring fenced? Will the funding needed to actually meet our requirements there be ring fenced during the time of the review?

  Mr Ainsworth: As you know, I moved money in that direction in last year's budget, quite controversially. I make no apologies for that. I think that, when we are involved in the kind of operation that we are in Afghanistan, it has to be the main effort and we have to make sure that everybody recognises that and it is therefore a first for resources. It is an interesting question that you raise because if there are planning rounds going on at the same time as the Strategic Defence Review we will have to try to deconflict them so that we are not taking short term decisions that are in contradiction of the general direction in which we want to travel; but we are still involved in Afghanistan. If there are still needs and opportunities to further resource the operation out there, then that is something that people are going to want to consider. I think potentially that is going to be quite complicated.

  Mr McKane: The Green Paper itself does raise the question whether we should be devoting more resource even now, as we go through the review, to Afghanistan and that is something that will have to be looked at. Do not forget that all of the additional costs of operations are still being funded from the reserve. As the Secretary of State said earlier, £3.5 billion in the current year, rising next year, and there is no reason to suppose that that will change.

  Q74  Chairman: All of the existing costs of operations?

  Mr Ainsworth: All of the additional costs.

  Q75  Mr Jenkins: Secretary of State, you will be aware that the Green Paper is for involvement with the public, to raise the public's knowledge etc., of our defence capabilities and the defence industry. You will also be aware that the last time the public had a full understanding and a full debate on defence procurement was on whether or not we should buy another Dreadnought. Since then, the public have been excluded from taking part in this great debate basically because of a lack of information and a lack of understanding of what has now become a very complex issue. Is it not possible to put down on a graph, on a critical path analysis format, exactly what our procurement needs are today without giving the commercial confidentiality away, so that the average lay person and a Member of this Committee might have an understanding of what our commitment is to each of the projects we have, how we are going to be able to fund it given the constraint on capital that we have? If we can do that, maybe it can go along to the cost of running the Armed Forces. We have demands on one side; we have resource on the other side but we need a full understanding not that the academics understand but that Mr Joe Public understands.

  Mr Ainsworth: You had Lord Drayson here so I do not want to go into the depth of this document that we published alongside the Green Paper, The Defence Strategy for Acquisition Reform. There is a pretty radical proposal in there for transparency and audit of procurement plans which will do precisely what you are asking for. We have done our level best to raise the level of debate through this Green Paper process and that started long before the document itself was produced. As soon as we announced an intention to produce the document, we engaged with other people. We encouraged them to have the debate, so I think we can take a little bit of pride in the fact that over the last months there has been considerable coverage of strategic defence decisions that need to be taken. That continues. I have seen whole pages in newspapers like The Times and elsewhere dedicated to the individual Services. Yes, of course we want to try to involve the public as much as possible. I think you are being a little bit harsh about Dreadnought. There was quite a controversy about whether or not we should order the Eurofighter, as it was called at the time. I can remember that getting out into the public domain. You are right. Public discussion of defence is something that we need to encourage.

  Q76  Mr Jenkins: It is public understanding. May I give you the fact that people collected for Spitfires nearly £1 million in the Second World War and maybe they had an understanding of what was needed. I do not think they understood why. It is the understanding why and I think you, with the best will in the world, have tried very, very hard. You do tend to slip back into the Ministry of Defence jargon and framework.

  Mr Ainsworth: It is terrible. I know.

  Q77  Mr Jenkins: Outside that, it is very difficult to translate that to the public. I recognise that in the press they have tried valiantly to make this clearer but even in those articles I recognise the yawning gaps that they have to fill in because it is a very complex and difficult subject. Can we make it easier?

  Mr Ainsworth: The world is not as simple a place as it was. When we start getting into cyber as a threat, we may lose even more people as a result of the complexity of the technologies that we are talking about. Yes, we must try all the time to develop the popular debate but let us not detract from the fact that there is a lot of real knowledge out there in the informed debate about defence which, if we are not going to be inward looking as a department, we must embrace.

  Q78  Mr Jenkins: This is what I am saying. The informed debate is between the defence industries, the academics. It is not the general public. We need to get more of the general public to understand why things cost, why we need them and what we are doing. I think that is the task. It is a very hard task but I think it is one you have to step up to in the Green Paper and make it more understandable and encourage more members of the public to understand that we do need another Dreadnought.

  Mr Ainsworth: Ten more meetings on the SDR?

  Chairman: I think the question was essentially addressed to Mr McKane who had such a role in the acquisition reform process at the beginning of last year and has had such a role in the Strategic Defence Review process at the beginning of this year. If Mr McKane were able to produce a comprehensible table with a critical path analysis and an explanation of what that might be for the purposes of the Green Paper, I think it would help in the question of public understanding.

  Q79  Mr Holloway: Since there are going to be some heavy duty decisions on spending, whoever forms the next government, does the Secretary of State think that there is a risk of short term spending decisions having long term consequences to Britain's place in the world? Where does he think the risks are here?

  Mr Ainsworth: When we did the Strategy for Defence, the room to manoeuvre in terms of moving money in the short term was pretty limited because of some of the long term programmes and the fact that money is tied up on the people side as well in ways that cannot be undone. This is one of the issues that we raise in terms of agility because what you find—the Hon. Member has been a member of the Armed Forces in the past so he knows this—are superbly adaptable people in all of our Armed Forces, providing capability and moving between them. Have we the systems that are as adaptable to actually support those people so that we can move our decision making in a reasonable time frame? I think that we can do much better than that. Our planning structure is far too rigid. Part of the reason for the Strategy for Defence is to break out of that rigidity, but it needs to be done more systematically I think and that is why we flag up the question in the Green Paper.

  Q80  Linda Gilroy: Being more systematic probably does mean more transparency. It probably plays into the question that Mr Jenkins asked about public involvement. It probably also plays into the questions we were asking earlier about the cycle of determining the SDR and how that might or might not fit in with shorter Parliaments and narrower majorities. Will there be any scope in the context of the Green Paper to look at models for working with the grain of all of that? I am thinking particularly of something that Robert Key and I were involved in as part of the NATO ESDP inquiry, when we went to Denmark and saw how they managed to put together five year agreements across quite a stretch of parties. Would the Secretary of State consider it important perhaps to look at how that can be done in the interests of ensuring that the resourcing Adam has just been talking about can be determined over a period of time, given some certainty and some stability as well as transparency in that decision making process?

  Mr Ainsworth: The reason we raise these questions is that we recognise there is a need. I totally agree with you.

  Mr McKane: As part of the work that led up to the publication of the Green Paper, we have of course talked to allies and partners. We have looked at how they have done their reviews, at how they make arrangements to plan for their defence budgets. There are a number of different ways in which it is done. There is no one pattern that is common to all. As the Secretary of State says, we will continue to draw on the experience of others. Just exactly how that plays into the timetable for the Strategic Defence Review I think is a different matter. As the Secretary of State said, it will be completed in the course of the year and really that is all one can say at this stage.

  Linda Gilroy: The point I was making was that it might be quite difficult to adhere to that if we were for instance, at some point, to enter into the territory of hung Parliaments and shorter Parliaments. Therefore, some thinking about other international examples of how that has been dealt with might well be useful as part of the thinking on the Green Paper. That is a comment rather than a question.

  Q81  Chairman: It raises an interesting question. Mr McKane, what thought has gone on within the Ministry of Defence about the prospect of a hung Parliament?

  Mr McKane: I think you and the Committee know that civil servants across government have to be prepared for all eventualities.

  Mr Ainsworth: You are getting no more than that.

  Chairman: You talked about allies and partners.

  Q82  Mr Jenkin: The crunch background to this review is bluntly, if the budget flat lines for the next five years, quite substantial capability cuts are going to have to be made. Would you agree with that?

  Mr Ainsworth: Who is to say? The budget is set for this next year and secure for this next year. Beyond that, there are no decisions that have yet been taken. They will have to be taken by the government of the day.

  Q83  Mr Jenkin: Using limited leverage in international alliances or bilaterally is no substitute for having our own capability, is it?

  Mr Ainsworth: There has been some excellent reporting of the Green Paper. There has also been some misreporting of the Green Paper. I read with great interest how we are now going to become totally and utterly reliant on the French. Where on earth in the Green Paper it actually says that, who invented that or who decided to drip that into the British public's mind that that is what it said I do not know. The only reference to the French is the fact that we welcome their return to the NATO Command Structure. Who would not do that? We are not saying that we should become totally dependent upon others for our defence. What we are saying is the notion that we can provide security for our own people on our own, in the modern world is just not sensible. We need organisations like NATO. We will need them increasingly. We will need organisations like the United Nations and the European Union must not be ignored. It has developed capability to deal with crises. It is not a military alliance but it has considerable economic levers and ability and it has shown its ability to use those in areas like the Balkans. We need to think about how we work with them and how we get them to work with NATO as well, because there is the notion around that in some way the European Union should be in competition with NATO. The last thing that anybody wants, I would have thought, is duplication in an area where we are trying to get the maximum return for taxpayers' money in all of our countries. We want complementary work between organisations like NATO and the European Union.

  Mr Jenkin: Before I had mentioned France you had stolen the question from my lips.

  Mr Ainsworth: I recognise your obsession from many, many years.

  Q84  Mr Jenkin: Is not the crucial point that, compared with the United States, France neither has the money to spend, the capability to deploy, nor the technological base which makes the United States still our ally of first choice?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think the Green Paper says that. The most important bilateral defence relationship is the United States of America and it will remain so.

  Q85  Mr Jenkin: You were as surprised as any of us that France was galloping off into the sunset. I am relieved to hear that.

  Mr Ainsworth: I think it has been welcomed in Paris.

  Q86  Mr Jenkin: Would it not be sensible for us to reflect on the fact that President Sarkozy is the first pro-NATO president for more than half a century?

  Mr Ainsworth: Absolutely.

  Q87  Mr Jenkin: He may not be succeeded by one. What is your reaction to the fact that France has sold a helicopter carrier to the Russians?

  Mr Ainsworth: The very fact that France is prepared to play a role in NATO is a huge step in the right direction and we must work with them in that regard.

  Q88  Mr Jenkin: It would also be helpful if they would—

  Mr Ainsworth: We cannot dictate their foreign policy any more than they can dictate ours. We are two sovereign nations working together in the European family, much to the Hon. Member's annoyance.

  Q89  Mr Jenkin: If President Sarkozy wanted to demonstrate his new NATO credentials, he would drop the demand for an EU military headquarters to compete with SHAPE.

  Mr Ainsworth: We do not support the need for separate headquarters and we have made that pretty clear over a period of time. What we need is capability and complementary capability. We would like to help and encourage our European neighbours and partners to improve their capability.

  Q90  Chairman: When Bernard Jenkin says France has neither the money to spend, nor the capability to deploy, nor the amount of spending on research and development, that makes it most like us really, does it not?

  Mr Ainsworth: France is militarily by European standards very capable, so of course we ought to be working with them, ought we not? It would be ridiculous for us not to work with our close partner who has military capability, is a member of NATO, a member of the NATO Command Structure, a member of the European Union and shares much of our analysis of the issues.

  Chairman: Just redressing a bit of balance there.

  Q91  Mr Jenkin: Our relationship with the United States depends on their confidence that the intelligence we share and they share with us is secure and the technology they share with us is secure. Nothing we do with France or any of our European allies would be allowed to threaten that, would it?

  Mr Ainsworth: We have to be very mindful I think of the huge benefit we get from working closely with the United States of America. It would be pretty foolish of us to jeopardise that.

  Q92  Mrs Moon: You have partly answered some of my question in your response to the Chairman. France and Britain provide 50% of the military capability of the European Union. Surely it makes sense to look at how we can work closer together and how we can find ways of ensuring that our capabilities can be meshed together, and not to play out some sort of Francophobic game when we are talking about the security of Europe. As partner allies in NATO it is important that we recognise and move that forward as far as we can.

  Mr Ainsworth: I totally agree. There are those in the House and those around the table who believe that the transatlantic alliance is in some way in conflict with our place in Europe. I think that is a ridiculous notion. Our place in Europe potentially makes us strong in our relationship with America as well.

  Chairman: Moving on to another myth about the Green Paper, Linda Gilroy?

  Q93  Linda Gilroy: First of all, before I ask about the myth, the Green Paper says that we need organisational change and improvement to skills within the MoD, particularly DE&S, and yet the main effort is drawing the focus back very properly to Afghanistan, as we discussed earlier. When is that continuing pressure to reduce civilian skills, which has been happening on a massive basis and when funding constraints which we have talked about are there? How is that change going to be made, streamlining pace? Are you confident that there is the necessary resource there to carry through the sort of change involved in the Green Paper and of course through the Gray report?

  Mr McKane: First of all, on the question of skills within defence, the Strategy for Acquisition Reform that was published at the same time as the Green Paper talks about investment of £45 million over the next few years to make improvements in that area. That is a sizeable sum of money by anybody's measure. The question about civilians more generally is one of how we continue to extract the best value that we can from the civil servants across defence. Let us not forget that there have been reductions of about 40,000 over the last 10 years and plans are in place to reduce by another 5,000. We should not get mesmerised by absolute numbers. What we need to do is make sure that we have the minimum necessary to do what has to be done in the most cost effective way and that they are as skilled and adaptable, to use the theme of the Green Paper, as possible. There is a fair bit of work that has been set in hand to look at that, as the Green Paper says. Gerry Grimstone, the chairman of Standard Life, has been asked to do some work in this area and there are other linked studies that we are kicking off.

  Mr Ainsworth: There is a notion that we can just replace—what is missed out is the fact that we would have to replace—and that we could hugely cut our civilian capability. Yes of course we want value for money and we have reduced civilians in the Ministry of Defence substantially over a period of time and plan to do so again by some pretty substantial numbers. If you go too far, you will wind up forcing their replacement with uniformed personnel, which will be more expensive and potentially will detract from our ability on the military side.

  Q94  Linda Gilroy: In answer to the confidence question, is that balance likely to be achieved in terms of the scale of change that might come out of the Strategic Defence Review with the current proposals as they are for further cuts something that the Green Paper needs to look at? Presumably it is something that the people who represent them, the trade unions, would be welcome to make submissions to the Green Paper on?

  Mr Ainsworth: If we go into it in a planned way, I think we could continue to reduce our overheads and we must do that. If we go into it with some notion that nothing has been achieved so far and that going too fast does not have consequences, then we will lose a lot of capability. There is a fond and popular notion that civilians do not have the kind of skills that are needed for defence. When you actually get into the MoD and you see some of the phenomenal capability that is held, not by uniformed personnel but by civilian personnel, it is not what you can afford to lose.

  Q95  Linda Gilroy: Their views will be welcome in the process of the Green Paper?

  Mr Ainsworth: Yes.

  Q96  Linda Gilroy: Can I move on to the myth and that too is on personnel. Commentators seem to have latched on to something in the Green Paper which points in the way of amalgamation of Services into one service. Where does the Secretary of State think that came from because I cannot see where it has come from. Has it, from his point of view, any foundation?

  Mr Ainsworth: I think it came either from a misspoken or a mischievous question at a press conference that the Chief of Defence Staff answered. I think he was the only one in the room who actually heard it properly. The real issue raised in the Green Paper is we have done a lot of what is called in the jargon "purpling" over the years. In a number of areas of capability we have joined up responses to that rather than a single service response. The easiest one is the Joint Helicopter Command and the way people work together there. The issue that is raised is should that and can that go further. Not always does that single service ethos lead to additional capability. Sometimes potentially it can lead to duplication and therefore inefficiency and we ought to look at whether or not there are areas that ought to be joint that are not currently joint.

  Q97  Linda Gilroy: More joint but not amalgamation?

  Mr Ainsworth: Potentially. It is a question, yes. No, not amalgamation. It is a question that is asked. On the other side of it, people will answer that it is very, very important to maintain the single service ethos. People join the Army. They do not join defence.

  Q98  Linda Gilroy: The Navy particularly.

  Mr Ainsworth: They are motivated by being members of the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force. The last thing you want is to lose that ethos because we are totally dependent on the skills of our people at the end of the day.

  Linda Gilroy: I am glad we have cleared that one up.

  Q99  Mrs Moon: We have today in the Jubilee Room an example of partnership working with the development of the new Defence Training College at St Athan where you have Metrix, the MoD, its civilian partners and civilian workforce working alongside the military actually looking at skills and capacity. How much is a project like that and the analysis of the project going to form a critical part of the defence review in terms of how we use such partnerships further, to be more financially effective?

  Mr Ainsworth: The fundamental decisions to go ahead with the defence training review have already been taken and I do not hear any voices within that say we ought to be separating out or going backwards in terms of defence training. There is no pressure from that.

  Mr Devine: There was one strand of work in preparation for the Green Paper that did not make it into the final Green Paper on the extent of our partnership with industry across the range of our activity from training through to support in our offices, through to the large number of contractors who are working alongside our forces in Afghanistan. What we do want to do as we approach the Strategic Defence Review is draw together in one place the extent of our relationship with industry to understand both the benefits and potential risks of that relationship. I do not see any particular trend one way or another.

  Mr McKane: There is still the big, formal investment decision to be taken on the defence training.

  Q100  Mr Jenkins: If I can go back to personnel, it says in our note from you that in the DE&S there are currently 244 design professional finance posts in accountancy which are considered essential. At present you have 63. Obviously they are doing a tremendous job and you have a training scheme in place that means in about 2012-13 we will have 90% accountancy filled posts so great; we have the accountants. How many qualified engineers do we have in the MoD? That is, with a first degree or postgraduate qualification or membership of an institute? Could you give me a note on that?

  Mr Ainsworth: Yes.

  Chairman: Now, with what I regard as perhaps the most important question, Linda Gilroy.

  Q101  Linda Gilroy: Returning to procurement, the government already faces difficult decisions about how to conform the Armed Forces to the available budget and within that at recent evidence sessions, most recently with Min(DES) in December, we have been asking questions about the research budget. From that it has become clear that there are cuts to that budget, he told us, in terms of C4ISTAR, which is particularly important of course in relation to Afghanistan. How is this going to be dealt with in terms of the Green Paper? It surely must feature to look at the importance not just of the pressures on the immediate deployments and budgets but 20 years down the track we need to have done the research and development that will give us the cutting edge then.

  Mr Ainsworth: I would just ask the Committee to accept that we did invest, as part of the announcement package in the last budget, in ISTAR most specifically when we moved resources in that direction. Yes, there have been reductions in expenditure on research in recent years. I regret that that is necessary but we still spend half a billion pounds a year on research and we need to explore, within the SDR, whether or not that is sufficient. There are new areas that we see as a need to increase our spending capability. We flagged up cyber. We flagged up the growing importance of space. We are dependent upon space for some of our communications now. We are equally dependent upon others in that regard. There is investment potentially needed in those areas that would lead to a need for research spending.

  Q102  Linda Gilroy: Is that within the Defence Acquisition Strategy? I have not studied that quite as closely as I have the Adaptability and Partnership Paper yet. Would your support team agree that it is very important to pitch the emphasis we give to research and the resourcing we give to research and development for our future security?

  Mr McKane: The question of research is touched on in both the Green Paper and in the Strategy for Acquisition Reform. What the Green Paper says, amongst other things, is that there are some long term trends. The expenditure on defence research in other parts of the world is growing. The other big trend is that the volume of spend on civil research is growing much faster and becoming more significant than defence research. Again on the theme of adaptability, we need to find ways in the review of capturing civil technology more effectively than we do at the moment and using the research that we are making to improve our capability in a more agile way than we do at the moment.

  Q103  Linda Gilroy: Instead of defence diversification, that sounds like a kind of "reversification" process from the civil sector. Is that explored in the Acquisition Paper at the moment or can we expect to see some more on what that can add to our security in that 20 year timescale?

  Mr McKane: It is a well established trend and people understand the growing significance of civil research. It is something we have said that we need to understand better and make better use of.

  Chairman: As a Committee, we have said that we consider this is an area which the G overnment should give more priority to. I suspect we still think that. You are a very persuasive man, Mr McKane. We still think that the Government should give more priority to it. I think we ought to draw this to a close now in order to allow you to leave because that is what you need to do. Thank you very much indeed for a helpful evidence session on two different areas. We are most grateful.







1   Note by witness: with a further 3,000. Back

2   Witness correction: 20,000. Back

3   Witness correction: 30,000. Back


 
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