Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-103)
MP, MR JONATHAN
9 FEBRUARY 2010
Q1 Chairman: Secretary of State,
Mr Ainsworth: Good
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. Moshtarakthe 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
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
troops plus around getting up to 10,000 on the Afghan National
Army, so 40,000
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
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
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 offensivewe
are led to believe that is the caseto 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 Helmandhe
had been with the US Marine Corps thereand 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, communicatingit does not matter how good your interpreters
areis, 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: 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 capabilitywe did not foresee
huge changes in circumstances in the next couple of yearsand
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
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 affordand what our level of
ambition isto 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
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
Chairman: I rather agree with you on
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
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
Q68 Chairman: You believe that the
issues arising out of the deterrentnamely the entire concept
of how a deterrent works in a multi-polar worldshould not
be discussed in the context of the Strategic Defence Review, do
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
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
believeand I think this is brought out in the questions
that we face; it is for other people to have their view as wellthat
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
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.
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
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
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 findthe Hon. Member has been a member of the Armed
Forces in the past so he knows thisare 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
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
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
Chairman: Just redressing a bit of balance
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 replacewhat is missed out is the fact
that we would have to replaceand 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
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
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
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
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
Witness correction: 20,000. Back
Witness correction: 30,000. Back