The UK’s Foreign Policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan

Supplementary written evidence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1. What level of finance has the UK provided to Pakistan for counter-terrorism support in the current, and preceding, two financial years?

Counter-terrorism support for Pakistan is funded as part of the FCO’s global Counter Terrorism and Radicalisation Programme Fund, which is £38 million in financial year 2010–11.

2. The Committee has received evidence that "the FCO and others are increasingly prioritising funding for short-term security activities, using Conflict Pool funds in Helmand at the expense of longer-term conflict prevention projects which the funds are intended for." (Oxfam GB). What is the Government's response to this?

We do not know what Oxfam are referring to.

The FCO, through its contribution to the Conflict Pool uses funds to help counter the insurgency and reduce and ultimately prevent conflict in Helmand. Providing the people of Helmand Province with security from intimidation and violence is an absolutely critical element of counter-insurgency and long-term conflict prevention.

The Conflict Pool fund has increased funding for long-term security in Helmand from approximately £6 million spend in 2008–09 to approximately £12 million scheduled spend in the current financial year. Over the same period expenditure on short-term security activities in Helmand has decreased steadily, from approximately £2 million in 2008–09 to approximately £600,000 committed spend this financial year.

Long-term security projects funded by the Conflict Pool in Helmand include training the Afghan police in detective and community policing techniques, upgrading police checkpoints, building prison accommodation in Lashkar Gah that meets international standards, and the Helmand Police Training Centre.

3. The FCO's written evidence states that, "since Transition is conditions based, timelines cannot be made and it is important that transition planning does not interfere with the primary task of providing security to the Afghan people" (para 44). How can this quote be squared with the Foreign Secretary's statement when giving evidence to the Committee that the 2015 deadline was fixed and not based on conditions?

In 2009 President Karzai set an objective that transition of the security lead across the country should be completed by the end of 2014. The NATO/ISAF Lisbon Summit in November 2010 endorsed this objective. The Lisbon Declaration said "The process of transition to full Afghan security responsibility and leadership in some provinces and districts is on track to begin in early 2011, following a joint Afghan and NATO/ISAF assessment and decision. Transition will be conditions-based, not calendar-driven, and will not equate to withdrawal of ISAF-troops. Looking to the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be assuming full responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan…" This means that identifying individual priorities and districts for transition to ANSF lead will be conditions-based and ISAF and the Afghan authorities have established mechanisms for this process. The process is intended to be completed by 2014. The Government has made clear UK forces will be out of combat by 2015. The latest ISAF assessments are that the 2014 objective is achievable.

4. The FCO's written evidence states that it is not foreseen that the UK will provide any combat forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 (para 19). Does this mean that all British combat troops will be withdrawn by the end of 2014? How can this be squared with other government statements which say the date for withdrawing combat troops will take place on an as yet undetermined date in 2015?

The FCO memorandum should have read 2015, quoting the Prime Minister’s statement on 7 July 2010. [1] We apologise for this inadvertent error. The Lisbon Summit declaration looks forward to Transition being completed by 2014; the Government, in setting its timetable, has allowed a further period. The Prime Minister has made clear we will not be in Afghanistan in a combat role beyond 2015. It is too early to say what exactly the drawdown pattern will be up to this period.

5. How many Kabul / Lashkar Gah-based FCO diplomats have had local language training and to what level? How many speak Pashto or Dari fluently?

Currently there are two Dari speaker slots filled in Kabul. There is another officer based in Southern Afghanistan who speaks both Dari and Pashto. Six members of FCO staff have completed language training in the last five years, of which three completed language training to extensive or operational level. 23 staff who have completed language training in Dari or Farsi have been posted to Afghanistan (19 Dari students and 4 Farsi students). Dari and Farsi are two forms of the Persian language and officers conversant in one form of Persian can easily adapt to the other.

As the Foreign Secretary made clear during the recent evidence session, improving language skills is a high priority for the FCO. The Afghan languages are among the key languages that we will investing in further over the forthcoming CSR period to increase our capacity from the current base.

31 January 2011

[1] HC Deb, 7 July 2010, col 367