Defence Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 413

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Defence Committee

on Wednesday 23 January 2013

Members present:

Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)

Mr Julian Brazier

Thomas Docherty

Mr Dai Havard

Mr Adam Holloway

Penny Mordaunt

Sandra Osborne

Sir Bob Russell

Bob Stewart

Ms Gisela Stuart

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence and Lieutenant General Richard Barrons, CBE, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Strategy and Operations), gave evidence.

Q310 Chair: Secretary of State and General Barrons, thank you both very much for coming to give evidence. This is the fifth evidence session of our inquiry into Afghanistan. We had an excellent visit to Afghanistan in November and we are most grateful to you, Secretary of State, your Department and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for organising that. I will begin with a rather broad question, asking you to describe how you see the political situation in Afghanistan and what you see to be the prospects of a peace settlement.

Mr Hammond: I should make the point, which is well known to you, that the political process is a Foreign and Commonwealth Office lead. The ability to see a long-term, sustainable peace in Afghanistan fundamentally rests upon a political compromise-a political accommodation-being made within that country between the different ethnic groups, and between the Government and the Taliban. Such an accommodation will require the active support of the neighbours, in particular Pakistan.

There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The dialogue that is going on, brokered by the UK-the trilateral discussions between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UK-suggests a level of Pakistani engagement with the issue, and a commitment to trying to find a solution to the problem that we have not always seen in the past. That is a very healthy indicator. There are signs that there is a dawning realisation in Pakistan that as ISAF troops withdraw from Afghanistan, it is very much in Pakistan’s interest to have a stable settlement in Afghanistan. Otherwise, Pakistan runs the risk of becoming the mirror image of Afghanistan today-a country potentially destabilised by people who find refuge in an unstable neighbour. There are good, self-interested reasons why Pakistan is engaging, and thus those reasons are likely to be enduring.

I am not as close to the issue of the Afghanistan Government as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. However, I sense a dawning realism, a commitment to trying to reach an accommodation with those elements of the Taliban that are prepared to renounce violence and distance themselves from al-Qaeda and international terrorism. The announcements made during the recent meeting between the US President and President Karzai around the Doha office and that process are also quite positive. It is going to be a slow and careful process. I don’t expect dramatic progress, but I think we are heading gently in the right direction, rather than in the wrong direction.

Q311 Chair: What do you think will happen if there is not a peace settlement achieved by the time of withdrawal?

Mr Hammond: I suspect that the Afghan National Security Forces would effectively hold the important parts of the country-the population centres, the key towns and cities, the principal communications arteries and the major economically important areas. I would expect attempts at dialogue, at groping towards a peace process, to continue. I would expect the situation to be messier than it is today with ISAF present on the ground, but I sense that there is a growing recognition on both sides of this fight that neither side can win outright. The Government cannot defeat the Taliban and secure every inch of Afghan space. The Taliban sense-and we have had some evidence of acknowledgment of this-that they cannot defeat the Afghan Government in military terms. So both sides will want to make progress ultimately to some kind of political accommodation.

Our own experience in similar situations suggests that this might not be a smooth process. It might go in fits and starts. There may be periods when it looks as though the political process is making way and there may be other periods when it looks as though the political process is stalled and the focus is on the ability of the security forces to maintain the ground. But I would expect slow and messy progress.

Q312 Chair: Is there any prospect of any sort of national or pattern of local ceasefires?

Mr Hammond: I suspect that a feature of post-2014 Afghan control will be very much a pattern of local accommodations, more or less formal, which in practice on the ground amount to regional or very localised ceasefire arrangements-accommodations between local Afghan commanders and other powerful forces in the areas they are responsible for.

Q313 Mr Holloway: You said that the Foreign Office is responsible for the policy side of it, but it seems that a very large bulk of the Afghan body politic that is not part of the Karzai clique believes that there will be civil war if the elections re-elect a Karzai candidate, because the Taliban will never make peace with President Karzai or his clique. What, if anything, are we and the Americans able to do to make those presidential elections rather more meaningful and maybe the possibility of an opposition candidate winning, rather than a Karzai one?

Mr Hammond: I think we have made it clear-and I am sure the Americans are making it clear to President Karzai-that the elections must be free and fair. They must be seen to be an expression of the will of the Afghan people. It would be a disaster, both for President Karzai’s status and for the future of Afghanistan, if there were any doubt about the fairness of those elections. I get the very clear impression that President Karzai understands that. Certainly in his public remarks he acknowledges the importance of the 2014 elections.

Chair: We’ll come back to this issue in a moment.

Q314 Mr Brazier: Secretary of State, in a number of other successful campaigns we have engaged in around the world, the concept of an amnesty has been fundamental. In Afghanistan at the moment there is a nominal amnesty, but it is so narrowly drawn that in practice, almost any member of the Taliban who comes forward-and a number have come forward-can get prosecuted for something else subsequently, such as drug dealing. Have we actually pressed the Afghan authorities to introduce a proper amnesty, which guarantees that someone who comes and hands in his weapon will not be prosecuted?

Mr Hammond: I don’t know the specific answer to that question. As you know, there is a substantial reintegration under way; about 6,000 Afghans joined the formal re-integration programme. We suspect that there are many more Taliban adherents who simply melt back into civil society-who simply go back to their village and melt back into what they were doing before. I do not claim to be an expert on Afghan society, but I wonder how meaningful is the concept of handing in your weapon in an amnesty, in a society where everybody has a weapon. We must be realistic about the realities of Afghan society on the ground. We have got to promote the reintegration process and the idea that at the margin some compromises may be needed in order to make it realistic. On the other hand, I do not think we would want to say to the Afghans that they have to pass up the right to take action against any criminal in Afghan society, no matter what area of crime he has been involved in.

Q315 Mr Brazier: As an historical point, it was the most bitter argument in our successful campaign in Malaya. In fact, it was finally settled in favour of a general amnesty. But point taken.

Could I ask you a question about the relationship between our forces and our international development operation in Afghanistan? Forgive me for painting a picture, but we visited a forward operating base where we were very impressed with the training team. They painted a picture of how, each time an Afghan or British patrol went out through the gates, usually together, within minutes this would be reported to the enemy. They pointed out to us on the maps and on the horizon roughly where the enemy were. An hour or two later, we were with the international development staff, where they showed us the same maps and the areas where people who have absolutely no economic prospects have been driven out to, dug illegal wells and are now harvesting poppies. Of course, those were the areas that the military told us were now supporting the Taliban. The impression one was left with was that we had two highly effective groups of people operating entirely independently. How are we joining all of this up?

Mr Hammond: My impression in Afghanistan is that the PRT and the military work very closely together.

Lt-GenBarrons: The unity starts in London, where the drawing together of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development is now a very well worked-up piece of Government machinery. It is reflected in Kabul, where the Department for International Development staff are part of the embassy grouping and work very closely with ISAF and its stabilisation arms. The key actor is the PRT, which is civilian-led and military-supported. I do not think they would recognise the picture as you have described it, where there was an enormous difference between the two of them. There may be differences of local interpretation-you might expect that-but we have been at this now for a number of years, and in my experience this is the best illustration of how you bring these arms together that we have ever managed to establish.

Q316 Chair: Do you think the Afghans have a solution to this issue of the dispossessed growing poppy with illegal wells, outside the areas that are controlled by the Afghan national security forces and ISAF?

Mr Hammond: At the heart of every insurgency of this nature are people with poor economic prospects, who have no obvious incentive to compromise and come inside the envelope of civil society. The answer must be economic development but, as we have found out in other areas of the world where the economic attractions of cultivating illegal narcotics are very powerful, it is not a simple problem to solve. I had some experience in the 1980s discussing this problem in Latin America and the same persistent issues prevail today that prevailed then. It is difficult to find other crops that represent equivalent opportunities in the climatic conditions that prevail. That is the challenge.

Chair: This is going to run and run.

Q317 Mr Brazier: Can I ask you about the message? A number of people, including journalists and intelligence analysts have suggested to us that, while the Taliban and their supporters have a very clear and simple message around getting the infidels out and establishing certain Koranic rules, our message is rather over-complicated.

I have two questions. First, what exactly is the short message that we are trying to put out, and secondly, a specific point raised by one of the senior Afghan officers who complained to us that, while the Taliban have a whole range of muftis who are quoting the Koran and other religious texts to the people, there seems to be a lack of Islamic scholars deployed by the Government to respond to them-to people who take their religion very seriously?

Mr Hammond: On the last point, my understanding is that quite a lot of progress has been made within the Afghan security forces in deploying religious liaison officers into units specifically to put out a non-extremist Islamist message in the security forces. I cannot speak about the wider Government programme. I do not know if there is a Ministry of Religious Affairs and how effective it is. If we look at this from the Taliban side of the coin, our problem would be that Afghan society is changing quite dramatically. The economy has been growing for a number of years. Afghans have had, for people at that level of development, unprecedented levels of exposure to westerners and international people over the past few years. The country has developed in ways that probably the previous Afghan regime-the Taliban regime-would never have envisaged. The use of the mobile phone is pretty much as prevalent in Afghanistan as it is here, so people’s expectations and aspirations have changed.

There is some evidence that the thinking Taliban, and that will not be all of them, but it is certainly some of them, are recognising that the pitch for popular support five years ago may not work any more. It is one thing to make a theoretical pitch about the role of women in society, but once people have experienced their daughters going to school, for example, to suggest that you should turn the clock back is a very different proposition.

I suspect that the Taliban are struggling to grapple with the changes in Afghan society, and that their message, if they are going to be part of the future in Afghanistan, will have to change. Those who recognise that the message will have to change to respond to changes in Afghan society will be the ones who prevail and become the key figures in the future.

Chair: Talking of the role of women in society, Sir Bob Russell.

Q318 Sir Bob Russell: Secretary of State, in the spirit of joined-up government, your officials, if not yourself, will be aware that in FCO Questions yesterday I think there were five questions to do with women’s equality in Afghanistan. That is in accord with United Nations resolutions to which the UK has signed up. Are you able to inform the committee whether the UK is going to match the Australian commitment of providing funds to improve women’s position and gender equality in Afghanistan? You have alluded to how progress has already been made.

Mr Hammond: This is a DFID matter, of course. It is the case that DFID has a component within its funding plans for Afghanistan that is focused on women and gender issues, and it intends to maintain that post-2014.

Q319 Sir Bob Russell: I asked that question in the spirit of joined-up government, following what Mr Brazier said about different interpretations of the same map. I was hoping that DFID, FCO and MOD were singing from same song sheet. You have indicated that you are.

Mr Hammond: Yes. To be honest, it is not our song sheet. While the PRT work is heavily co-operative with the military on the ground, planning forward post-2014, when our aid programme to Afghanistan will be delivered through Afghan organisations and intermediaries, is very much the responsibility of DFID. Those are precisely the issues that it will wish to address. I remember the International Development Secretary making the point in the House just before Christmas that women’s issues would continue to be an important part of the funding.

Q320 Sir Bob Russell: I think you are confirming to me that officials and Ministers across those three Departments are in regular dialogue. So we are all on the same song sheet.

Mr Hammond: We do work together. Absolutely right.

Q321 Sir Bob Russell: As part of that dialogue, just as an aside, I wonder whether your officials, next time they are in discussion with FCO and DFID about alternative crops, might raise the subject of pomegranates. There is a UK charity headed by the Marquess of Reading promoting them as an alternative crop.

Mr Hammond: Thank you for that. I will pass that on. Pomegranates are a new one on me. When I was in Latin America in the 1980s we looked at all sorts of crops as alternatives to coca, and we hit upon garlic, which is also a high-value, low-volume crop. Pomegranates are a new idea for me.

Chair: We never realised quite what your job as Secretary of State for Defence involved.

Sir Bob Russell: When I had a briefing, about two years ago, I was assured that Afghan pomegranates are the best in the world, and if only they could produce and export them, it would be much better than poppies for everybody.

Q322 Sandra Osborne: To go back to women, quite a number of the NGOs and women in Afghanistan are very concerned about the discussions with the Taliban. They are worried about the gains they have achieved being lost post-2014. They feel they are not being included enough in the discussions about the security situation. What is your response to that?

Mr Hammond: One has to be careful how one states this case. Many women in Afghanistan are concerned about the discussions with the Taliban. Discussions with the Taliban must be the way forward; that is not an optional extra. In my judgment, there will not be a lasting settlement in Afghanistan without discussions with the Taliban. I understand that there will be concerns about the expressed agenda of some parts of the Taliban. I think there should be some reason for optimism, though. We have seen-it is a matter of public record-that there is debate within the Taliban about the popularity of some of the policies that they have previously espoused, particularly with regard to women’s education. Again, I don’t claim to be an expert on this, but my understanding is that the rhetoric around women’s education has subsided somewhat over the past few years and there is evidence that the Taliban recognise that this is not an issue that they should focus major attention on if they want to establish broad support across the population.

Q323 Sandra Osborne: But what about the inclusion of women in discussions about the security situation? Whether they involve the Taliban or not, they feel they are being excluded.

Mr Hammond: Women have the vote in Afghanistan; they are not excluded from the political process. We have to recognise that we are in an evolutionary process from a society that just a few years ago looked quite primitive on some of these matters. It has come an awfully long way, but changing attitudes and educating people is a process, not a point. It looks to me as though it is a process that is continuing to make progress, and I think we should encourage that: we should not constantly focus only on what they are not doing, but should be praising for what they are doing and encouraging them to continue development in that direction.

Q324 Chair: And we should be aware of the speed with which we are demanding changes that took this country centuries.

Mr Hammond: Absolutely.

Q325 Bob Stewart: Secretary of State, I know it is not strictly your bag, but it-the Government-does have an impact on the fact that we are training the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police. To follow up Adam Holloway’s question, do you have a view on the group of people, or perhaps one person, who may well replace the President when he stands down, as he has announced he will? Obviously, rotten government will not help the Afghan national army or the Afghan national police when we withdraw.

Mr Hammond: It is for the Afghan political system to throw up the candidates who will fight the presidential election. Not only would it be not helpful for ISAF Governments to speculate about who the candidates might be, but it is very important that ISAF Governments clearly state that they will not get involved in this process. They will hold the ring, to ensure a fair and free competition, but they must not get involved in backing individual candidates; that way would lead to disaster.

Q326 Bob Stewart: I totally accept and understand that reticence. My question is really, in general, do you think people are coming forward? If you wish to refuse that question, I will accept it.

Mr Hammond: I don’t think that is something I can comment on. I know no more than anyone else who has been reading the various reports from Kabul of the manoeuvrings behind the scenes, which are no different from the manoeuvrings that we would expect to see behind the scenes in many democratic countries ahead of an election.

Q327 Chair: You mentioned Pakistan and the co-operation looking rather more optimistic and positive than used to be the case. What about co-operation in relation to Iran?

Mr Hammond: In relation to Iran?

Chair: Yes, because Iran also has a border with Afghanistan. I am not suggesting that we are necessarily co-operating with Iran or Iran with us, but Iran has a role to play in the future prospects of Afghanistan. Do you have anything to say about that?

Mr Hammond: You are absolutely right, of course: Iran has a border with Afghanistan; it has an interest in and has had an involvement in Afghan politics, including active involvement in the last presidential election process. For obvious reasons, we have rather limited visibility of Iranian manoeuvring in relation to Afghanistan. I think everybody, including the Afghan Government, is conscious of the fact that if relations between Iran and other ISAF powers were to deteriorate, the ability of Iran to make mischief in Afghanistan could become one of the levers that is pulled. We need to be constantly aware of that.

Chair: Moving on now to the transition to Afghan national security Gisela Stuart.

Q328 Ms Stuart: In a previous evidence session, we raised with Dame Mariot Leslie and Brigadier Stevenson the way in which, even once you hand over security responsibility completely, the Afghans will not have access to close air support, helicopters or ISTAR capability. In their answers, they said there would be transition period to 2014, and of course the air force may take until about 2017. It is my understanding that some parts of Afghanistan are like where the Norwegians were: they already had a complete withdrawal, and the experience of the Afghan national forces’ capability to hold the ring has not been terribly encouraging.

Mr Hammond: That is not my understanding.

Lt-Gen Barrons: We are in a process of transition, now just starting the fourth of five tranches. The general experience to date is that where transition has occurred, the ANSF are doing a very good job. They do it differently-we have talked before about how they have different capabilities and different expectations-and the amount of challenge they get from the insurgency will vary across the country. As you know, in the north of the country the insurgency is generally less-less prevalent and smaller-but there are other factions in play that may be nothing to do with the Pashtun-based insurgency. I do not have any sense of the ANSF having to give ground in any part of Afghanistan where they have taken the lead, but we are still in the middle of a process that will endure through ’13-’14 and beyond.

The question we need to ask ourselves now is: how do we finish this process off really well, as we step out of combat at the end of 2014? There is plenty that we can do as we begin to stand behind the ANSF, rather than alongside them or in front of them, and the signs are generally positive.

Q329 Ms Stuart: It may be worth looking back at the reports on the "Today" programme last week. Some of the journalists who were on the ground had returned from the area where the Norwegians were. They may be wrong, but their strong impression was that the absence of air support and of intelligence led to an inability to operate strategically on the ground.

Mr Hammond: You have heard a military perspective on this. What we have to recognise is that, regardless of the availability or otherwise of enablers, the Afghans will operate differently from the way in which ISAF has operated; they will have a different concept and they will approach things in a different way. It may very well be that at the tactical level, they have a different approach to which bits of ground are worth holding and which bits are not. The important thing is whether the overall effect of what they are doing delivers the outcome that is required. It is clear that delivering to the Afghans the full panoply of enablers that ISAF routinely uses would not be efficacious as they would not able to maintain them, and it would encourage them to try to conduct their operations in a way that mimicked western concepts of operations, rather than adapt and adopt an approach that is more appropriate to their capabilities and their sustainable levels of equipment.

The key thing is sustainability. The ANSF that we leave behind in 2014 has to be sustainable. An ANSF that is over-dependent on western-style enablers will not be sustainable. Intelligence gathering is a good example: ISAF is heavily dependent on electronic intelligence gathering; the ANSF will have much greater dependence on, but also much greater capability to deliver, human intelligence gathering; in consequence, it will operate in a different way. That does not mean it will be less effective; it just means it will operate in a different way.

Q330 Ms Stuart: I think the argument was that you probably need both: the human intelligence on the ground, and the ISTAR ability to give you something strategic.

Mr Hammond: But the reality is that they will not have the ISTAR capability that ISAF has, or the same level of sophisticated enablers. The important thing over the next two years is to ensure that, during the transition, their method of operating adapts appropriately to conducting operations with the sort of level of enabler support that they will have after 2014.

Q331 Ms Stuart: Can you give us some indication of the trends in both casualties and desertions in the Afghan national army, particularly in the second half of 2012?

Mr Hammond: I might be able to turn up more precise numbers, but in big handful numbers-we have to enter a caveat about the quality of the data, including the baseline data that we have-as the Afghans have taken over the leading role in security, clearly their casualties have gone up very significantly. They have possibly doubled over the past year or so, with that caveat about the quality of the baseline data that we are looking at. In terms of what I think is known as attrition rather than desertion, it is important that we recognise the cultural factors. If you talk to commanders on the ground, they will tell you that it is not at all unusual for people to disappear for several months and then reappear. The rate of attrition is significantly higher than the target, and there was a blip in October or November when it shot up rather alarmingly. That appears to have been a one-off blip.

A number of measures are in place to attempt to address some of the drivers. They include making sure that Afghan soldiers on leave can get back to their home villages by chartering more air transport to enable them to do that; making sure that pay gets through to them-a very large percentage of all Afghan forces are now paid by electronic transfer, making it less likely that the funds will stick to someone else’s hands along the way; and improvements to clothing allowances and accommodation. They are issues of that nature that you would expect to have a generally beneficial impact on retention rates.

Q332 Ms Stuart: Would you care to put a figure on the word significant? When you talked about attrition, you said that it is significantly higher than the target.

Lt-Gen Barrons: In terms of attrition, the target is 1.6% a month.1 In the Army it is now averaging 2.6% or so, and it peaked in October-November at 3.1%.2 The reasons are exactly as the Secretary of State described. It is a combination of leadership, because good leaders make them stay, and good leaders are being grown in the ANSF, and the need to get paid-most pay is now done electronically, but they still need to get home in order to deliver that money to their families.

Q333 Ms Stuart: But we are still talking about 1.6% or 2.6%. Is there any significant difference between the army and the police, or are the figures similar?

Lt-Gen Barrons: No, the figures are different, because the police are much more local. For the great majority of the Afghan national police, if they do not turn up for work, they are easy to find.

Q334 Ms Stuart: So the attrition rate is lower.

Lt-Gen Barrons: It is lower, but people may come and go. Within the Afghan national army there may be a seasonal element to this. The fighting season takes people in different ways and people often go home to bring in the harvest at home. The absolutely key drivers against Afghan national army attrition are leadership, pay, decent food, absence of corruption and getting home for leave.

Mr Hammond: To support that, I was reading in my briefing pack here that a supplier has recently been jailed for supplying substandard rice to the Afghan national army. So somebody is taking the problem seriously-an army does march on its stomach.

Ms Stuart: He will probably have to buy his way out of jail with high quality rice a few months later.

Q335 Mr Holloway: Post-2014, do you anticipate that the insurgency and levels of violence in Helmand will stay the same, come down a bit, or increase?

Mr Hammond: First, as is perhaps inferred by your question, the violence across Afghanistan is very variable by region. Helmand, which I think accounts for about 13% of the population, accounts for nearly half of the violence in the country. It is an area of focus for the insurgency. We would expect-our understanding of their strategic plans supports this-the ANSF to regard Helmand as a high-priority area of which to retain control, because it is an economically important area as well as a population centre. I would expect that the ANSF will devote resources to retaining control of Helmand. I would hope that what we will see is a continuation of the gradual decline in incidents of violence across the country that we have seen over the last couple of years.

I think there are two competing factors. On the one hand, the withdrawal of ISAF troops might suggest that there might be an upsurge in violence, but on the other, clearly, one of the most powerful motivators of the insurgency, particularly at low level, is the sense of a crusade to drive out foreigners from the country. Once foreigners are gone, and the ask is to go and fight your own people and your own national army in your national territory, that is rather a different proposition.

Q336 Mr Holloway: Yes. In a way it is a terrifying truth, after all the people who have died there, that the violence might go down when we leave, so one has to ask the question-

Mr Hammond: If I may say so, if we hadn’t been there, there wouldn’t be an ANSF that was able to hold the line after we have gone. The purpose of the mission was, first of all, to clear al-Qaeda; secondly, to push back the insurgency and create a space where the Afghan civil state could start to establish its credentials; and thirdly, to train the ANSF to take over the role of ISAF and to maintain that space for the Afghan Government to exercise their jurisdiction.

While we are still in this live operation-people talk about it having taken a very long time-I suspect that when history looks back on this, it will be seen as a relatively efficient exercise in clearing al-Qaeda, pushing back the insurgency, creating space for civil governance and training a 350,000-strong indigenous military force to take over. I think that that is quite an achievement.

Q337 Mr Holloway: But the team that did the MOD-FCO recce before our NATO deployment to Helmand took the view that there wasn’t an insurgency in 2005 in Helmand. If we say that the level of violence may go down after international forces leave, does that not rather beg the question-perhaps this is a question for the general-what are our soldiers likely to achieve in this coming summer fighting season that we haven’t achieved in the last seven years? What will the daily activity of the BRF achieve over the next 12 months or so?

What are we actually doing? Forget about all the other issues. In terms of Britain’s national security, what are we going to achieve in the next 18 months?

Lt-Gen Barrons: The achievement of this summer and indeed into next year will be to make the ANSF confident, competent and resilient. It is already the case that the ANSF are firmly in the lead and are responsible for engaging in most of the encounters with the Taliban.

We will need to do two things this summer. The first is preserve our own force protection, and you know well how we will have to go about doing that, which is more than simply sitting in our bases. Secondly, we will need to continue to get the ANSF confident. Our achievement will be that when we complete the transition and draw down, we will leave behind an ANSF that is reliably and on an enduring basis protecting the people, particularly in those key populated areas of Helmand.

Q338 Mr Holloway: Finally, in those key populated areas of Helmand, what percentage of the ANSF is now southern Pashtuns, meaning, from the same tribal grouping? What percentage of the ANSF deployed in Helmand province even speak Pashto?

Lt-Gen Barrons: Of the army, it is a relatively modest proportion of southern Pashtuns.

Mr Holloway: Four per cent.?

Lt-Gen Barrons: I would have to look at the figures. Of the police, because they are locally recruited, there is a higher percentage of southern Pashtuns.

It is the dynamic between the nationally recruited army and the locally recruited police service. One of the dimensions of the coming two years and beyond will be how that police service migrates from protecting the community to a more conventional policing role. That will be the next evolution of security sector reform.

Mr Hammond: Just to pick up on that last point, the new Afghan Minister of the Interior was here on Monday, and I had a chance to talk to him. I know that he also met the Home Secretary to talk about his plans for the future of the Afghan police forces. I must say that it was a very reassuring discussion. He is a professional police officer and he very much sees the transition of the Afghan police force from a security role to a law-enforcement role as being his big challenge over the next few years.

Q339 Chair: We met him in November, and we were similarly impressed.

Precisely what is the purpose over the next few months of British forces patrolling alongside Afghan national forces?

Mr Hammond: Transition is a process. At the beginning of that process, you have areas where British forces are leading. At the end of that process, you have Afghan forces carrying the full weight of the security burden. In between, there will be some areas-there is work this summer-where British forces are continuing to patrol with Afghan forces in Nahri Sarraj, which is the last district to go into transition, and where the process of upscaling the Afghans’ capabilities to take over that role is not yet complete. It is essentially part of a training process that is embedded within the transition.

Lt-Gen Barrons: Nationally, the ANSF lead on 80% of conventional operations. One key difference for the British deployment during the course of this summer is that there is far less patrolling on foot compared with past years and far more movement in vehicles. As the ANSF take the lead and become more independent, our contribution to it is changing in style and nature as well.

Q340 Mr Holloway: But this presupposes that the country is not going to lurch into civil war because the politics are not right. Forgive me for asking the question again, but what do you say to the families of the kids who die in the next 18 months or so? What do you tell their families was achieved in terms of Britain’s national security by what they did on patrol in Helmand province from now on?

Mr Hammond: We have a plan, which is quite ambitious, to transfer security responsibility to the Afghan national security forces and to be out of a combat role by the end of 2014. We want to do that in a way that allows the Afghans to maintain control of their territory and to deny it to international terrorists of the type that we have had a reminder of just over the last few days in another part of the world.

Mr Holloway: And move there.

Mr Hammond: It is easy to forget, because effectively Afghanistan is not now harbouring international terrorists on any scale, that just a few years ago we were looking at these kinds of threats coming from Afghanistan. We have a process that is very much driven by Britain’s own national security interest, and we cannot cut and run before we have completed that process. Everybody who has contributed to the campaign in Afghanistan and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice have done so in support of delivering our long-term national security interest by denying the territory of Afghanistan to al-Qaeda and its associates.

Q341 Penny Mordaunt: Secretary of State, one suggestion that was made to us on our last visit was that, although we needed to be there, we were still actually doing too much on a day-to-day basis. Rather than supporting the Afghans in going out on patrol and whatever, we were actually still taking the lead too much on those sorts of issues. In fact, a soldier put it very well to us when he said, "It would be better that we were there and let the Afghans get a bloody nose and pick up the pieces, than to leave and they go and break their necks." Has that view been expressed to you before? What is your view on that?

Mr Hammond: I can only repeat what I have said. Transition is a process and the level of British activity will vary depending on the area that you are talking about and what stage we are at in that process. In some areas, such as Lashkar Gah, there would be very little British leading or even joint patrolling.

Q342 Penny Mordaunt: That is where we were.

Mr Hammond: My understanding is that, in Lashkar Gah city, there is very little joint patrolling. I do not know who you spoke to, and at what rank. Obviously, different people-depending on their function in the battle space-might have a different degree of vision.

Q343 Penny Mordaunt: It was a view that was expressed to us quite consistently by various ranks. They fully accepted that they needed to be there, but they felt that they were not actually doing the Afghans a favour by still taking the lead too much. They felt that they would be better serving the Afghans if they let them get on with it and were there to help when things did not work out.

Q344 Chair: The point has been made.

Lt-Gen Barrons: It is a very hard thing to calibrate. On the one hand, the very worst outcome is that the ANSF goes into the field unassisted and fails and, as a result of that, its confidence, resilience and its reputation are shattered. On the other, to lead it by the nose for so long that, when the stabilisers are finally taken off, it is not ready, but you are, would not work either. We are calibrating operations in that middle space. It varies over time, and it varies by geography. Some days in Nahri Sarraj now, the Afghans will be very confident. On other days, they will want a bit more help, but the general trend is for transition to move faster now and for Afghan confidence to lag slightly behind its real capability. I judge that this is a process that is accelerating rather than decelerating.

Mr Hammond: Thinking about a discussion that I had when last in Afghanistan, at the strategic level the Afghans are planning most of these operations now. The Afghans decide what ISAF support they want. For example, I am thinking about a specific operation that I was shown the planning for; the main operation was to be conducted by the Afghans. That was the Afghans’ decision. They had asked ISAF forces to protect their flanks, while they conducted the operation.

To somebody at a relatively tactical level, that might still look like a lot of UK force deployment but, at a strategic planning level, it is very much a supportive role with the main operation being conducted by the Afghans. I am not aware of the problem, and it has not been expressed to me, certainly by senior officers. No one is putting pressure on them to do more for any reasons generated from here. It is very much as I understand it, which is that the Afghans are determining the level of support that we give them. It is what they ask for that we try to provide.

Q345 Mr Havard: I should like to echo what you were saying, General. For example, on a late afternoon in a forward-operating base, the recce team were quite capable of going out on their own. They did not need Brits with them on that particular day, because the mission that they had planned, they could do on their own. The engineering component needs Brits to go with them because they are not capable. This idea of conditions-based is not something necessarily at a broad top level; it is down to that level. It was whether the major, who was on the ground, running the troops, and the local commanders had the opportunity and the support to make those tactical decisions at the time. It might be different one day to another or one week to another, but where it did not need to happen, it did not have to happen.

Q346 Chair: Does that strike a chord with you?

Lt-Gen Barrons: It does. As a key indicator, we now no longer mentor totally at company level. We are standing away from them. That has occurred three months sooner than I thought it would.

Q347 Sandra Osborne: You talked about the new sustainability of the ANSF, and acknowledged the fact that they will not have the same capabilities and will go about their business in different ways from the ISAF. If there were an increase in insurgent activity, do you think that they would be able to cope?

Mr Hammond: I did not say that they would not have the same capabilities in terms of the military effect that they can deliver, but that they would deliver it in a different way.

Q348 Sandra Osborne: But in terms of their support, logistics and helicopters, for example, and ISTAR, they will not have the same capability.

Mr Hammond: Let us take each of those in turn. Logistics is an area where they are improving. It is very clear on the ground that some harsh lessons have been learned about logistics. That is an area where ISAF is adopting the approach of letting them experience the consequences of poor logistics in order to enhance their thirst for better logistic planning. My understanding is that that is an area where there has been significant improvement. They are never going to have the level of ISTAR that ISAF forces can provide. It would not be sustainable without ISAF forces to operate it, so they will have to change the way in which they gather and use intelligence in their operations for it to be sustainable.

On air support, including rotary, there is a plan to provide basic air capability to the Afghans through the Afghan air force, and I talked with the US Defence Secretary on Saturday in London about this. But it would be nothing like the level of air capability that the ISAF forces have. That will require them to adapt their method of operations to the level of enablers that are available for them.

Medical is the other one you didn’t mention, where there is a developed plan to build an ANSF medical service that is appropriate to Afghan conditions. That will provide a proper level of medical support, which is not dependent on western-style medical enablement.

Q349 Sandra Osborne: You talked a lot about the plan, and we clearly had explained to us why we are in Afghanistan. Do you think that more could be done to explain to the British people how that plan is in progress, in order to make the case that the plan has to be stuck to until the date for withdrawal?

Mr Hammond: There is always, in theory, more that one can do to communicate what is going on to the public, but there is a limited appetite for detail, I generally find. Of course, the media is often more interested in specific events than long-term evolutions.

Q350 Chair: What do you think would happen if there were a significant upsurge in the insurgency?

Mr Hammond: I don’t think I can really comment on a hypothetical situation. It is like the recurring question of whether we could retake the Falkland Islands if they were captured. The answer is, we don’t intend that they should be captured. All the evidence I see suggests that the Taliban, while still a significant force, is struggling to maintain the momentum of the insurgency. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that it has the kind of reserves that would allow it to press a button and significantly increase the tempo of the insurgency.

Quite an interesting example is the two incidents that occurred in Kabul over the last week or so. Both, in themselves, were attempts at spectacular attacks in an area which is actually pretty safe. There are relatively few attacks in Kabul, despite it being by far the most important centre in the country. The first, the attack on the NDS, was pretty much a failure. It was dealt with by Afghan troops very effectively, without any call on ISAF support, and it failed in its objective. The second, which was not so obviously a failure, was an attack on a very soft target, the unarmed Afghan traffic police. Again, it was dealt with efficiently and effectively by ANSF without any call on ISAF support. This does not look to me like an insurgency with lots of reserve firepower. It is struggling to mount an effective attack, even when it decides to launch what is clearly designed to be a spectacular attack in the capital.

Q351 Mr Brazier: The two items that came out top, when we asked one senior commander, were IED equipment, which they can operate but they need help to maintain. Secondly, you mentioned medical. There is indeed a plan in place to get surface CASEVAC to replace the current heli one. Ironically, Helmand is the only province without a military hospital either in place or under construction. Those two things were particularly highlighted.

Mr Hammond: An Afghan military hospital?

Mr Brazier: Yes.

Mr Hammond: Okay.

Lt-Gen Barrons: If I may start with the EOD aspects of this, in 2012, President Karzai signed off on a strategy for dealing with the ANSF counter-IED capability. That will take some time to deliver. For example, they will have 19 EOD teams and they currently have 11. Better equipment is coming on stream, including American vehicles-Humvees, in fact-some ECM and better detector equipment. In Mazar-e-Sharif, a school has been established to improve the higher-skilled training of Afghan forces.

The performance on the ground of the ANSF teams, even at battalion level, is improving. Although there has been an increase in the number of IED attacks on the ANSF and they are taking substantial casualties-in the past six months, the ANSF have had some 1,100 fatalities, so it is a significant issue-their ability to deal with it is getting better.

Q352 Mr Brazier: But on maintenance for the equipment, they say that they are a long way away from being able to maintain it.

Lt-Gen Barrons: Yes, they are a long way away from maintaining almost anything that they have, because the maintenance culture in the ANSF has been grown from scratch. There is a risk that if you give them a piece of equipment that is too complicated, they will not be able to repair it when it breaks. One of the reasons why the process of gifting and equipping the ANSF is so carefully regulated in theatre is so that what is delivered is appropriate and is not cutting edge western technology, which would overface them.

In terms of hospitals, I do not know whether there is a plan to build a military hospital in Helmand, but the Afghan hospital in Lashkar Gah is where the military casualties will go. They go there now, in fact.

Chair: Moving on to the funding of the ANSF, we have Sir Bob Russell.

Q353 Sir Bob Russell: The Committee has been told that the international agreement for funding the ANSF assumed a reduced number of personnel after 2014 from 352,000 to 228,500, but that the Afghan Government intended to maintain numbers at current levels. Do you have any idea where they are going to get the money from to maintain that level?

Mr Hammond: Yes, two points to make. The number of 232,000 is the enduring intended force level.

Lt-Gen Barrons: It is currently 352,000 and it will step down to 228,000.3

Mr Hammond: The expectation was never that it would be down to 228,000 by the end of 2014.4 There was always going to be a process of draw-down to that level. The assumption is that US support will bridge a gap if one exists. I have to say that the former Afghan Defence Minister expressed to me on more than one occasion-I know he has expressed it to my US counterpart-the view that the Afghans would be able to sustain a force larger than 228,000 with the $4 billion. He believed, in calculating the unit costs, that the Americans or ISAF had erred on the side of caution and that, in taking proper account of Afghan conditions, he would be able to sustain a much bigger force with that sum.

Q354 Sir Bob Russell: So how long will that contingency taper be there? We are talking about a reduction from 352,000 to 228,000.5 That is a significant drop. Over what period will that drop take place and will the Americans maintain that contingency taper right the way down?

Mr Hammond: I think that that will be one of the things that the Americans will want to look at in their emerging agreement with the Afghans. Certainly no one expects to see the ANSF fall off a cliff edge in terms of numbers at the end of 2014. I think that the general expectation is that it will be towards the end of 2017 that the ANSF reaches the long-term sustainable number of 228,000.6 Bear in mind the discussion that we had earlier about attrition rates. The question that has sometimes been posed to me, including in the Chamber, about what we are going to do with all the people that we are going to sack from the ANSF seems to be unlikely to arise, given the level of attrition rates that we are seeing.

Q355 Mr Havard: Can I ask you about policing and the justice system? We have a series of people detained because we are having difficulty putting them into the Afghan justice system. You will be aware that there was a report this week or at the end of last week-the UNAMA report-about the condition of Afghan justice, the prisons where there was torture and so on. As a consequence of this we are told that we have a number of people, possibly a growing number of people, detained at Bastion whom we cannot put into the system. Partly that is because of our fear that we are putting them into a system to which we would be vulnerable in our own courts. There are cases in our own courts relating to this problem. Could you give us some idea of what this means because we are collecting a large number of prisoners at Bastion at the moment, and it clearly has an effect, especially when the Americans seem to be making a different decision about how they will put people into the Afghan justice system?

Mr Hammond: Just to deal with the American situation, the Americans put their detainees through the detention centre at Parwan which is a modern, purpose-built facility-I think the Committee has probably visited it-now run by the Afghans. The UNAMA report does not make any negative comment about the Parwan facility. The history here is that, as you may know, a number of cases have been going through the UK courts. At one time last year there was an injunction in place preventing the transfer of UK detainees into the Afghan system. In response to that injunction and in preparing a case to challenge it in the courts, a great deal of work was done in the MOD. In the course of that work, material came to light that caused me to make a policy decision, independent of the injunction under which we were placed, to suspend transfers into the Afghan system until further notice.

The injunction is no longer in place. The policy decision remains in place. We have given the court an undertaking that I will give them, I think, 14 day’s notice before we resume transfers.7 We would fully expect that in that 14 days there will be a challenge from the original plaintiffs seeking an injunction to prevent us from doing that.8 We are very clear what the challenge is now. We have to establish or re-establish a route to transfer detainees into the Afghan judicial system. These are people in respect of whom the NDS believes it has a case for prosecution. So we have to establish a route that will be not only acceptable to me in policy terms but will be acceptable to the High Court here to allow that process to resume. We are looking at different approaches as a matter of urgency in theatre and we very much hope that it will be possible to resume transfers some time during the course of the spring.

Q356 Mr Havard: It is encouraging that those problems are moving forward. We visited NDS40. We looked at the new prison that is being built. We discussed with them how their processes worked, particularly their relationship with their own police services, how good their police service was on the ground, their forensics and their ability to prosecute in a proper way. As I understand it, we have stopped training Afghan police in Helmand now. There was a period where we were training Afghan police, along with the marines, as well as them being trained centrally in Kabul. The concern that was expressed to us on the ground was less to do with ANSF forces. Local councillors in Lashkar Gah would say that their problems were with the police in terms of security now rather than the ANA. Could you perhaps update us on what is happening with the development of the police service as we draw back from some of the front line activity of patrolling and assisting them locally? Could you say something about local police as well in that?

Lt-Gen Barrons: I will start on police training. The first point to make is that it is widely recognised that the Afghan police, in all its various forms, is behind the Army. It is a longer term challenge and actually it is a more difficult challenge, particularly if you are going to convert a police force that sees its role as protecting its community to something that looks more like a normal constabulary. So we have spent some time training on the ground, to a very basic level, Afghan policemen to do what are effectively security tasks through a combination of patrolling and royal military police and other service police assistance. As we go through transition-and we are now, in common with the Army, stepping up to a higher level-we are dealing with the leadership of the police service, and much less with the rank and file on the ground. That responsibility falls to the regional and national training facilities that are turning out policemen. Now, there is quite a concerted, but long-term plan to improve the recruiting, vetting, training, leadership and support of the police-both Afghan national police and their national counterpart, the Afghan national civil order police, which are higher calibre organisations.

Q357 Mr Havard: Is some of that vetting now being done more locally as well as nationally?

Lt-Gen Barrons: I can give a better example from the Army. If you are recruited into the Army, you are vetted by four Afghans, who have a spread of interests. In terms of recruiting police locally, the local elders have always had a hand on who goes forward. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than no system at all.

Mr Hammond: On the ALP, we believe that it does provide a valuable contribution, and my understanding is that that contribution is probably more developed in Helmand than anywhere else in the country. Certainly, the full tashkil available has been utilised in Helmand.

On Monday, I had a very interesting discussion with the Minister of the Interior about the long-term future of the ALP, and he does envisage it being incorporated over time into mainstream Afghan police, and coming under its direct command. This is seen as a force alongside the police, which will gradually integrate into the formal police structure.

Q358 Chair: Moving on from training the police to training the Army, we have a role to play in that in relation to the defence academy. What are your goals for that academy?

Mr Hammond: Our plans for the Afghan National Army Officer Academy are to establish a multinational training cadre, which will train the officer cadre of the Afghan army to international standards. Crucially, there is a "train the trainer" concept; it is not intended that there will be British or international trainers indefinitely in this institution. It is intended that it will become a self-sustaining institution. Clearly, we will expect to shape its agenda, its curriculum and ethos around the ethos of the British Army, in particular in regard to respect for human rights, and a proper understanding of the relationship between the army and the civil authorities in the country. Having the opportunity for the UK to shape this institution at the outset could be one of the most important and enduring contributions that we are able to make to the future stability and sustainability of Afghanistan.

Chair: There are more questions that we want to ask about the defence academy, but before we do so, I remember now that there was a further question that we wanted to ask about police training.

Q359 Sir Bob Russell: General, are any British components still involved with the training of the Afghan police?

Lt-Gen Barrons: The only part I am certain about is that we still have British policemen as part of the PRT in Helmand, but they are part of the training of the more senior leadership there. We would be training Afghan national police where we encountered them on patrol, as part of our combined operations with the Afghan national army. There is much less of a formal role, and I am not at all sure what our commitment is to the regional and national training facilities.

Q360 Sir Bob Russell: Who are these British police officers engaged with the training of the Afghan police force?

Lt-Gen Barrons: They are a very small number, and they are placed as part of the PRT. In part, they are recruited from a county constabulary, but a significant proportion have come from the MOD police service.

Q361 Sir Bob Russell: I ask that question because on my last visit to Afghanistan, which I admit was 18 months or so ago, the only British police I saw training the Afghan police were exclusively MOD police, both males and females. Of course, the latter are very important in the context.

My follow-up question to the Secretary of State is that this is the very police force that is being heavily axed. The MOD police are an important part of the MOD, and there they were in Afghanistan training, and now they are being chopped.

Chair: That is a question.

Mr Hammond: It sounded like statement to me.

Sir Bob Russell: Well, it was an observation. It is true, is it not?

Mr Hammond: The MOD police and guarding service is one of the areas where we are having to make significant savings, as part of the balancing of the MOD budget. Of course, their primary task is guarding MOD establishments and carrying out policing roles around those establishments; it is not their primary task to deliver training in-theatre.

Q362 Sir Bob Russell: I will only make the further observation that the training of Afghan police officers was left to the Ministry of Defence constabulary and not the county constabularies, because the counties, at that time, did not have any police officers either able or willing to be dispatched to Afghanistan.

Mr Hammond: Let me make this point-it is a micro-point, but it is relevant. The reductions we are making in MOD police are efficiencies driven by budget pressure-budget constraints. To the extent that there is a requirement for MOD police officers in theatre, the cost of those would be made from outside the MOD budget, which would represent a relief of that pressure on funding. I am not sure that it is necessarily the case that because we have a plan to reduce MOD police numbers, it would mean that if there was a requirement for small numbers to go to theatre we would not be able to accommodate that within our plans, because additional funding would become available.

Q363 Chair: We did meet some police officers supporting the Minister of the Interior when we were in Afghanistan in November.

Mr Hammond: Yes, I think there are two senior British ex-police officers there.

Chair: We met both of them.

Mr Brazier: Just a quick observation: there are of course quite a lot of police officers in the TA, and I, by coincidence, a few weeks before we left for Afghanistan, met a SOCA officer, who had just come back from a tour as an infantry officer in Helmand, working on police mentoring.

Chair: Getting back to the defence academy, which is going to be our role, or at least a part of our role, after 2014, Penny Mordaunt.

Q364 Penny Mordaunt: Are you being a bit too ambitious with some of your targets for the academy? I am thinking of, for example, the goal to recruit and train 150 women a year, when the number in service is 400. We identified a number of barriers to recruiting and training women, not least that they have to have permission from every male member of their family. Given that challenge, have you set the bar a bit high?

Mr Hammond: The 150 female students a year represent about 12% of the total throughput, which is a relatively small percentage. This will have been discussed and agreed with the Afghans-it is not something that we have done on our own in a closed room. I do not know whether the General wants to comment, but it seems to me unlikely that the target would have been set had there not been a consensus that it was deliverable.

Lt-Gen Barrons: The first point is that the total has been agreed with the Afghans, so it is a level of ambition that we are all comfortable with. Secondly, we might not get there at the first pass, but if we lowered our sights and said our ambition is not 150 but 100, we might have 60, whereas if we say it is 150, we might get 80. We want to try to pull this thing by the nose a little bit. Given that we are going to be doing this for a number of years, even if the first year does not hit 150, perhaps we will in year two or three.

Mr Hammond: Let me add to that. There are encouraging signs. The recent national military academy selection saw 100 female applicants and 30 have been selected to commence training this term. I think it is a tough target, but it is deliverable. It is certainly not out of reach.

Q365 Chair: But another ambition for the defence academy is that it should be based on the general British model that we can see at Sandhurst-for example, that there should be a strong cadre of non-commissioned officers doing the training. There is no tradition of a non-commissioned officer in Afghanistan. What do you think the prospects of success are of trying to introduce a training academy that produces a large number, or a reasonably large number, of women but is based on a tradition that does not exist in Afghanistan of non-commissioned officers?

Mr Hammond: I am not sure whether we are going to refer to them as non-commissioned officers or as trainers with some other description, but the principle of a dedicated group of Afghan individuals who are trained to be trainers of future cohorts of officer cadets will certainly be reflected in our approach. I understand it is also the approach that the Americans will take in the officer training academy that they are constructing, again based on the West Point model. I see no reason why that should not be successful. It may be that we need to be culturally sensitive: calling the trainers NCOs and expecting officers to defer to them may be difficult in the Afghan culture, in which case, let’s call them something else.

Lt-Gen Barrons: You are right, Chair, the Afghans do not have a tradition as established as our own, so they will not have many people who are as outstanding as our senior NCO instructors at Sandhurst, but they now have 12 years’ experience of growing NCOs at the regional military training centres and an awful lot of operational experience. Given that the head of the army, General Karimi, who was trained at Sandhurst, understands the value of the model, and that the Afghans have seen our senior NCOs training their candacs for some time now, there is buy-in to the idea, and now we have to grow the people. The first Afghan national army academy sergeant-major has been appointed, so we have got the senior leadership in, and we have until September this year to grow a sufficient cadre of ANA senior NCO and warrant officer instructors to get us started.

Q366 Bob Stewart: Secretary of State, how are we going to protect those trainers and those troops that we leave behind when we withdraw, presumably up to December 2014?

Mr Hammond: In the Afghan national officer academy?

Bob Stewart: Throughout the country, wherever they are.

Mr Hammond: First of all, the ability to protect whatever force we have on the ground will be absolutely paramount; we will not leave forces behind if we cannot adequately protect them. At the present time, the arrangements around the ANAOA and the protection arrangements are not entirely resolved, because it is not yet clear the extent to which we will be working within an American compound, how much protection the Americans will provide, how much life support the Americans will provide, and what the Afghans will provide. We have a range of estimates for our total force number associated with the ANAOA, at the lowest end being the basic numbers required to provide the training and basic UK aspects of life support, but assuming that the majority of the force protection is provided by others; and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a number based on an assumption that we have to provide our own force protection to the ANAOA. Outside the ANAOA, if we decide to do anything else anywhere in Afghanistan, we will either include UK forces for force protection purposes, or it will be on the basis that we are working within an ISAF construct, where force protection will be provided by ISAF allies-I should say NATO allies, post-2014.

Q367 Sir Bob Russell: Secretary of State, you have announced that the number of UK forces in Afghanistan by the end of this calendar year will be reduced to 5,200. Will it be a case of troops in Afghanistan being brought back early, or is it a question of their not being sent in the first place, so that you get to that figure at 31 December?

Mr Hammond: It is too early to say at this stage. Depending on what is happening on the ground, depending on what our allies are doing, it is conceivable that we could get to the 5,200 number through the RIP in September/October.

Chair: The RIP being-

Mr Hammond: The relief in place. But it is equally possible that we will deploy a higher number in September/October and then withdraw some by the end of the year, as in fact happened at the end of 2012.

Q368 Sir Bob Russell: But do you envisage, as we approach Christmas, the figure still being around 9,000? Or would it be nearer 5,200?

Mr Hammond: As we approach-we have just had Christmas. Next Christmas?

Sir Bob Russell: Yes, you have got 11 months in which to achieve your target.

Mr Hammond: We have got 11 months to look forward to Christmas. We will not be deploying 9,000 troops in the RIP in April, so there will be a step down in April. There is a clear expectation that there will be a further step down in September/October. What I cannot tell you is whether those two steps will take us down to 5,200, or whether it will be a question of bringing some people out of theatre. I suspect that once we embark on this process, if things go smoothly, the curve will look broadly smooth, so that there will be a combination of a reduction at each RIP but the withdrawal of some elements from theatre during the course of each six-month deployment.

Q369 Sir Bob Russell: I recognise that you have to be careful how you answer the question; that is why I deliberately phrased it in that roundish way. So the simple answer is that you are keeping everything under review.

Mr Hammond: Yes, and we do not know some of the crucial building blocks of the picture yet. We do not know what other ISAF nations, in particular the US, are going to do in fine-grain detail. We expect that over the next few weeks the US plans will emerge, and obviously they will be an important factor in our approach. We do not know what is going to happen on the ground during the course of this year, and the plan has to be flexible enough to respond to any quickening, or indeed slowing, of the pace of transition.

Q370 Sir Bob Russell: I wonder if I may press that point. What plans do you have for a strategic reserve in the event of withdrawal plans going awry if an unexpected situation arises?

Mr Hammond: You will be aware that we hold a theatre reserve battalion in Cyprus, and we will continue to hold that theatre reserve battalion in Cyprus if short-notice reinforcement is required at any point.

Sir Bob Russell: Thank you for that assurance.

Q371 Mr Havard: You have started to answer some of the question that I was going to ask you, which is about what happens post-’14, and the states of forces agreements, and the things that have to be done in order to decide and agree exactly will happen post-’14. One of the things that we had described to us was that there will be a series of agreements. President Karzai wants bilateral agreements. So there may be an ISAF-type agreement. There will be a USA agreement, a British agreement and so on-all in order to achieve three basic things.

Maybe you do not want to talk about certain parts of this publicly. I can understand why and I would not press you, because one of the elements will be the continuation of a counter-terrorism mission in Afghanistan. We might ask you at a future date how that is done, who participates in that and whether there is to be any British component in that, as remains to be determined. The training mission is clear and we have made some commitment to that. How it may extend will come out in the agreements. The other one was the idea of a third element, which is to support the Afghan-fielded force and whether or not any British elements are likely to be involved in that process, given that they do not have certain enablers. Is there anything you can say about the development of these discussions now that you have not already said?

Mr Hammond: Only that I think that you have broadly correctly identified the potential areas for post-2014 NATO engagement, together with possibly support at strategic level at Ministry of Defence headquarters level. The commitment that we have made so far is to the ANAOA, because we were specifically asked to make that commitment by the Afghan Government. Our judgment is that we do not yet need to make firm decisions on what, if any, additional military presence we will have after 2014. We are clear that it will not be in a combat role, but we are keeping our options open and we will watch carefully what is happening on the ground.

We will watch carefully what is happening in the political situation, and we will look carefully at what other allies are proposing to do and, indeed, whether there are proposals made by other allies that seek a contribution from us. The National Security Council will probably later on this year or early next come to a conclusion about what our post-2014 footprint needs to look like.

Q372 Mr Havard: So if we ask you the specific question about what specific capabilities will the UK be required to retain post-’14, it is not really possible to answer that question in detail.

Mr Hammond: It is not a question that we could answer at this stage. This is not a UK issue; this is a much broader NATO post-2014 issue, and there will be a shaping of this discussion over the next 12 months.

Q373 Mr Havard: The one element you did say that you had some certainty about was our involvement in the training, but even that over a period of time may well change its shape and its component, presumably in terms of numbers.

Mr Hammond: Over time, it will, because our proposal is a "train the trainer" construct. So there will come a point where our role in the Afghan National Army Officer Academy is effectively complete. There will then be at the very least a significant step down in the number of foreign personnel involved. There will not be a full foreign training team in perpetuity.

Q374 Mr Havard: Can I just ask you a cheeky question? We are planning to visit the US after Easter so, hopefully by that time, we will have a slightly better idea, will we, about the future shape of the discussion, given the US agreements and lay-down?

Mr Hammond: You may have. The Americans, of course, will have made it clear that any post-2014 presence will be dependent on reaching the appropriate agreements with the Afghans. American forces will only be there if they are invited to be there by the Afghans, and they will only be there if the appropriate status of forces provisions can be put in place. Whether that will have been achieved by April, I would not like to speculate.

Q375 Chair: Would you make those same conditions clear in relation to British forces?

Mr Hammond: Yes, absolutely.

Q376 Chair: All those three things remain in relation to British forces.

Mr Hammond: I think that I mentioned two.

Q377 Chair: No. I think you mentioned three: invited, status of forces agreement. There was something else.

Mr Hammond: It is immunities. Clearly, this is a sovereign nation. Our troops can only be in it, if they are invited to be in it, and they will have to be present under a status of forces agreement that gives our forces immunity from prosecution under Afghan law. We have to be able to deal with offences under our own military law and the US position will be exactly the same.

Q378 Mr Havard: So the expectation is that UN involvement will not involve the military aspect, but it may well be there for other reasons.

Mr Hammond: I am not aware of any proposal for a UN military presence.

Lt-Gen Barrons: No. The only UN military presence right now is a pair of military advisers in the headquarters of the mission in Kabul, and there is no intention for that to change.

Q379 Thomas Docherty: On a very practical level, Secretary of State, would you expect that the air bridge that will have to continue beyond 2014 will be delivered by the RAF?

Mr Hammond: I am sorry-the air bridge that will have to continue beyond 2014?

Thomas Docherty: Well, we are going to have a number of personnel in the country, so is it the thinking at this stage that it will be the RAF who will deliver that air bridge?

Mr Hammond: To be honest, I don’t think we have reached that level of detailed thinking. There will have to be a supply chain to whatever we have left in Afghanistan, so depending on where the people are located and what the scale of the operation is, we will make appropriate arrangements, which may be by collaboration with allies or by RAF provision, or some of it may be via commercial provision, because there are also commercial operators flying into and out of Kabul.

Q380 Thomas Docherty: I take that point, but as much as we wish it may not happen, there is also the possibility that there will be British casualties post-2014, so is it the MOD’s thinking at this stage that we would not have an air bridge and they would be treated in country rather than, as at the moment, being brought back to the UK?

Mr Hammond: As with force protection, we will only put people into a situation if we are confident that we are able to provide appropriate medical support to them, because as you say, even if they won’t be in a combat role, there will be risk in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. But it is likely that that in-theatre medical support will be provided-I could say by allies, but let’s not beat about the bush: it would almost certainly be provided by the United States, under an agreement, as it is highly unlikely that we would have enough people in theatre post-2014 to make the provision of dedicated UK medical facilities practical, I would think.

Q381 Mr Brazier: What will be the strategic message when we withdraw? Clearly, the Taliban will tip over from "We are fighting the foreign infidels," to "The foreign infidels are on the run."

Mr Hammond: Our strategic message will be that we went into Afghanistan for a purpose, that the mission has evolved in function, going through the phases that I mentioned earlier-the defeat of al-Qaeda, pushback of the insurgency, creation of credible civil government, and then growing the ANSF to the capability that it will have when we leave at the end of 2014-and that the job that we set out to do has been done. We have delivered those four phases of the intervention and we have left an Afghanistan with an ANSF that has demonstrated itself to be capable of holding the ground that ISAF has held over the past few years.

Q382 Mr Brazier: That is clearly the message for home, but I meant what will the strategic message for the Afghan people be?

Mr Hammond: You are inviting me, on the hoof, to write a substantial document. The broad thrust of it will be, "We, the foreigners, have carried out this four-stage process. We cannot build the future of your country; we can build the conditions that give you a reasonable, sporting chance of doing it for yourselves, but the future lies with you, in political compromise and agreement, in allowing the institutions of civil government to flourish, and in tackling the corruption that is still a major problem at every level of Afghan society. We have given you an Afghan security force that is credible to hold the ring. You now have to do your bit in delivering the type of society that you want to live in in the future."

As Afghanistan changes-and it has changed dramatically over the last decade-many Afghans will want to seize that opportunity now and they will not be attracted to the prospect of going backwards into the dark ages that the extreme end of the Taliban offers as an alternative future for that society.

Mr Brazier: On the nitty-gritty, we had a very good session with General Capewell, and we asked who had overall control of the logistic process of the withdrawal. We got a very straight answer. He said, "I do." It is always nice to get such a straight answer.

Mr Hammond: I hope he remembers that if anything goes wrong with it.

Q383 Mr Brazier: On that very point, Secretary of State, in our earlier reports on Afghanistan, one thing that was very clear is that some of the worst things that went wrong in the early years were that key people changed at bad moments and often simultaneously. Is that a post where you will see continuity at the crucial stages being important?

Mr Hammond: It is a very good question, which has a broader application. One of the key findings of Lord Levene’s defence review was that we have to tackle the culture of two-year rotations in functional positions. We are already doing that. More and more senior military appointments are being made for periods of three or four years. Clearly, these types of roles, where there is a mission to be accomplished, cry out for an appointment for the duration of the mission rather than for some arbitrary rotational period. I am very supportive of moving us towards a situation where most senior appointments are related to the completion of a task rather than an arbitrary figure.

We have created something called the operational planning group (redeployment), which will execute a redeployment and transition support plan; it is co-signed by the chief of joint operations and the commander of logistics. There is a clear ownership of the agenda and a clear mechanism for oversight of it. It is a very big and complex operation, and no one in the MOD or in the military is under any illusion about the scale and complexity of the task ahead.

Q384 Chair: When Julian Brazier asked the specific question about General Capewell staying in post, you gave a very reassuring and very helpful but rather general answer.

Mr Hammond: Sorry, was it a specific question about General Capewell?

Mr Brazier: Well, that follows naturally from it, as the Chairman says.

Mr Hammond: Okay, I cannot give you any assurance about specific individuals in post, but he was only appointed six months ago.

Lt-Gen Barrons: He expects to see this through.

Q385 Thomas Docherty: On money, can you afford the recuperation costs of equipment that will become part of the core equipment programme?

Mr Hammond: We will only bring back equipment that we need as part of our equipment plan. Equipment that is in Afghanistan as an urgent operational requirement is not assumed to form part of the future equipment plan. If it is to be brought back into the equipment plan, it will have to have a budget line exactly like any other equipment. In this case, there will not be a capital cost of procurement, but there will be a cost of any adaptation or refurbishment that is required for use in core, and of course for the ongoing sustainment of that equipment. There will be a value for money case on each individual line of equipment; for example, within the defence equipment plan, we have already taken the decision to reduce the allocation that was originally planned for new armoured fighting vehicles. Significant numbers of UORs have been acquired for Afghanistan in particular-350-odd brand new Foxhound vehicles. Some have just been delivered, and many more will be delivered over the next two years. They will be brought back into core, and they will form the backbone of the Army’s light armoured vehicle fleet for the future.

In many cases, recuperating UORs, refurbishing them and sustaining them in core will be the best value for money option for delivering equipment to UK armed forces. Where equipment does not represent value for money, after taking into account the cost of getting it back from theatre and then refurbishing it into core, it will not be brought back; it will either be sold, gifted or destroyed, as appropriate.

Q386 Thomas Docherty: On a point of clarification, when we start bringing home, is it the anticipation at this stage that it will be to the UK or that equipment might be put in, say, Cyprus or Germany? Can you clarify where?

Mr Hammond: Given the commitment that we are making to draw down from Germany, it is unlikely that we would want to move significant quantities of equipment to Germany. If there is equipment that is not going to be needed routinely-reserve equipment, as it were, to be stored-there are very significant storage facilities at Akrotiri that are not used. The base commander there never lets anyone in Defence forget that we have some very good empty storage facilities at Akrotiri. That might make sense for vehicles that were likely to be used in that region.

Q387 Thomas Docherty: That is very helpful. On the point that you made before about if something is deemed not to be required-surplus to requirement-how much equipment, or what types, are you anticipating at this stage that ANSF would want to acquire? Would you be using the same model as the Americans have previously, which is to gift rather than expecting a price?

Mr Hammond: Too early to say, I think is the answer. The key principle, though, will be that equipment that is gifted has to be sustainable in the hands of the recipient-not giving people a bunch of equipment that does not work. I was in Indonesia last week, and it has been donated some C130 aircraft by a nameless ally of ours, only unfortunately without any engines. Giving people equipment that they will have to spend large amounts of money on to bring into service or that will be beyond their capabilities to sustain operationally is not helpful in the long run. We want to be careful that we calibrate any offer we make to the Afghans on gifted equipment, to make sure that it is stuff that they really can use and deploy in a way that adds to their capability, not detracts from it by sucking resources into something that is inappropriate to their needs.

Q388 Thomas Docherty: I was intrigued by your suggestion that you might sell some of this equipment? Would you imagine it being through Auto Trader or eBay? Given where it is-

Mr Philip Hammond: We have our very own eBay, the Defence Disposals Agency, which disposes of military equipment to achieve the best possible value for the taxpayer when it is surplus to requirements. We will look at all the options for equipment that is not required in core. Is it useful to the Afghans? Is it sustainable by the Afghans? Can we afford to gift it to the Afghans? Is there a sale route for it? Is it something that we can sensibly attempt to sell? We will make a case-by-case judgment.

If it helps to give a general feel, I will extract this from the briefing I was reading just before I came in here. We think that we have about 11,000 20-foot equivalent container units of equipment in Afghanistan at the moment. Our planning assumption is that we will be bringing 6,500 container loads back to the UK-just to give you a sense of the scale.

Q389 Thomas Docherty: Who funds personnel who stay beyond 2014? Do they come out of the MOD core budget? Is that your anticipation?

Mr Hammond: Our expectation would be that anything related to the operation in Afghanistan would be funded from the Treasury reserve.

Q390 Thomas Docherty: From the Treasury rather than the MOD.

Mr Hammond: From the Treasury reserve. That would be my expectation; that is the established principle.

Chair: Sticking with the issue of money, but a different point, Gisela Stuart.

Q391 Ms Stuart: There is a serious question about the future of NATO, and the commitment, particularly within Europe, and how the Americans view it. Quite a number of our allies in Europe do not currently meet the 2% target.

Mr Hammond: All of them bar one.

Q392 Ms Stuart: But some of them have interesting ways for what they count in-whether the gendarmerie counted.

Mr Hammond: NATO has a way of counting that is entirely consistent, and in NATO’s way of counting the only European NATO country, apart from the UK, that meets the 2% target is Greece.

Q393 Ms Stuart: That is interesting. If the House of Commons Library is asked, they give figures that say that with some qualifications, Italy and France do as well, and just tip over the 2%, but I will take that up with the Library. Do you agree that ours is currently 2.6% of GDP, and that the projection after the current cuts is that we will sink down to 2.2% of GDP?

Mr Hammond: That sounds about right to me. Yes, 2.6% is our current level, and that includes the spending from the Treasury’s reserve on operations in Afghanistan.

Q394 Chair: And if you strip that out, what is it?

Mr Hammond: I think that takes us down to the 2.2% figure.

Q395 Ms Stuart: Within the whole Government envelope we are still committed to the 0.7% of GDP for international development, are we not, which is ring-fenced? Are you expecting to have some slightly searching conversations with your fellow NATO defence Ministers, and particularly Americans, as to whether, given the continued cutting of the defence budget, post-2014 we will hold the line of 2%?

Mr Hammond: On our current projections for 2013-14 and 2014-15, based on the Chancellor’s announcement in the autumn statement, we will continue to exceed the 2% NATO target. For 2015-16, of course, there is a spending review to be conducted so it would be premature of me to say what defence spending as a percentage of GDP will be then.

Q396 Ms Stuart: Would you agree, however, that if we were not going to meet the NATO target, it would be a significant political statement as to how we see our role within NATO, and that we would see it as a diminished role?

Mr Hammond: I would agree that if we were not going to meet the NATO target, British Ministers would have to stop going to Europe and lecturing our NATO colleagues on the need to meet the NATO target. That is absolutely clear.

Q397 Ms Stuart: And are you lecturing some fellow European members by saying that, as we all now are cutting back but co-operating more, you expect them to step up to our target?

Mr Hammond: I have tried not to lecture because-I have said this in speeches in the States and Berlin-the reality is that now is not the moment when anyone in Europe is looking at increasing defence expenditure, except for the Norwegians, who are in a fortunate and different position from most of us, and the Poles, who have a constitutional requirement to spend 1.9% of their GDP on defence, and they have a healthily growing GDP at the moment. In reality, no one else is a position to make significant increases in defence expenditure.

We need a twin-track approach. We must not lose sight of the 2% target, nor let anyone off the hook over that target. We need an understanding that, when economic growth resumes across the NATO European countries, we will expect our partners again to focus on how they will deliver that 2%. In the meantime, we must focus on efficiency, including efficiency generated by international collaboration, and on ensuring that the money that is spent is focused aggressively and relentlessly on deployable capabilities.

Germany-I am not saying anything I have not already said in Berlin-spends 1.3% of its GDP on defence,9 but of course it has a significantly larger GDP than we do, yet Germany does not deliver for that expenditure anything like the deployable military capability that we have. That is partly because of how it chooses to spend its money, and it is partly because of political constraints on deployment. But if we want quick wins in European NATO capability, ensuring that the money that is already being spent by key NATO allies is targeted in areas that maximise deployability and interoperability will be the way to get there in the short term.

Q398 Ms Stuart: When we go to America, would you expect American colleagues to express a sense of dissatisfaction with the extent that Europe is stepping up to the plate?

Mr Hammond: Yes.

Q399 Chair: And will you be expressing similar dissatisfaction when you go to Munich in, what, two weeks’ time?

Mr Hammond: My position on this is clear. As I have said, I have taken the view that, given the fiscal situation across Europe, simply wagging the finger at my European NATO colleagues and telling them that they need to increase their defence budget by 50% is possibly not a very realistic approach; but making clear that, in the absence of an increase in absolute defence spending, a refocusing of that spending into areas that represent deployable capability is the very minimum that we should expect from them.

Perhaps I should say that I have found a very significant degree of agreement with that approach among key European allies. That does not mean to say that there are not in some countries political issues to be overcome in getting that additional deployability, but there is recognition that that is the way to go in a period of austerity and budget constraint.

Q400 Ms Stuart: But isn’t each one of them saying, "We’re going to be more efficient. We’re going to be more strategic. We’re going to do more partnership work."? But actually that doesn’t take into account that there are fewer and fewer partners to do anything with. You are all gaining from that same shrinking cake.

Mr Hammond: I am not sure that that is true; but again, I would make the distinction between an agenda that is about efficiency, pooling and sharing capabilities. There are some good examples. The Dutch and the Belgians have a shared sustainment for their F16 fleet. The Swedes and the Norwegians have a joint C130 fleet. As I understand it, both arrangements are working perfectly well. There are clearly further opportunities in that area. There are some challenges. Sovereignty-when it comes to the crunch, everybody has an issue about sovereignty and we have to be able to address that if we are going to be able to get effective pooling and sharing.

The second part of the agenda, which is within national boundaries, is about shaping individual nations’ forces to be maximally deployable and interoperable with other allies, so that collectively we have the greatest possible deployability. That is simply about a change of approach, of culture and sometimes of political will in the countries involved.

Q401 Ms Stuart: Wasn’t that what the new European agency was also supposed to be doing?

Mr Hammond: The EDA-the European Defence Agency?

Q402 Ms Stuart: Isn’t it supposed to be co-ordinating capability and making it more efficient, slimmer, trimmer?

Mr Hammond: In terms of pooling and sharing arrangements, that is one of the agendas that the EDA has.

Q403 Ms Stuart: Is it doing it? Has it done anything useful yet?

Mr Hammond: I think that the joint helicopter training initiative has been a useful value-adding output from the EDA, but the work in other areas of pooling and sharing is still quite immature. The EDA has an aspiration to be a provider of a sort of framework that groups of nations can adopt in order to pool and share capability. Our experience has been that these kind of arrangements tend to work best if they are bilateral or, at most, trilateral. The more nations you try to work with, the more difficult it gets to make it a general workable arrangement.

Q404 Thomas Docherty: On a point of clarification, Secretary of State, does the 2.6% figure include spending on deterrent?

Mr Hammond: Yes.

Q405 Thomas Docherty: So what percentage of that 2.6% is the deterrent?

Mr Hammond: That is a difficult question to answer, because we are in the early stages of a programme to replace the Vanguard submarine, so the funding of the deterrent is extremely lumpy. If we look at it over the 40-year life that we would expect replacement Vanguard submarines to have, and we look at the cost of the deterrent averaged over time, we are looking at something like 7% or 7.5% of our total defence budget being represented by the full cost of building and sustaining the deterrent. I think it is about £2.5 billion a year on a £33 billion budget, approximately.

Q406 Thomas Docherty: I do not wish to put you on the spot, so could you write to us with what is in this spending round?

Mr Hammond: In this spending review period, I can answer that question-no, probably I can’t. There is a £3 billion budget for the work on the successor, but of course there are also sustainment costs on the current deterrent. Let me write to you and give you a figure.

Chair: It is a very important question.

Q407 Mr Havard: We have had NATO transformation taking place, apparently, and there is this outfit in Virginia, which I have visited on more than one occasion. I am not going again. This was meant to provide the efficiency discussion that you were talking about-the interoperability and deployment aspects of all this-so do you see a new life for a regeneration, as it were, of NATO transformation to provide what you would like to see? Is that the organisation, because that not only brings in the Europeans, but it brings in our United States allies to provide what you say could be a better, more efficient expenditure of existing money?

Mr Hammond: Yes, and I think it is called Transformation Command, isn’t it?

Lt-Gen Barrons: Allied Command Transformation.

Mr Hammond: It is a French lead and the commander of it is an impressive individual. NATO has some significant mechanisms, which we would argue-and do argue-are not being effectively deployed to achieve these objectives. NATO has a huge planning staff, but the planning process of future NATO capabilities and the planning of how NATO collectively is going to deliver them is extremely opaque and does not, in our judgment, and I think in the judgment of quite a few of our allies, have sufficient political control of it. Ministers at recent NATO ministerials have made it clear that they want to have a greater oversight of that process by which NATO’s level of ambition is set and then the detailed military planning and the allocation of tasks to individual nations is worked out.

NATO also has a vast library of NATO standards for interoperability, which we still do not comprehensively apply, so it is still the case that a great deal of NATO equipment is not fully interoperable, and if you wanted to address one single thing that would improve NATO’s effectiveness over time, it would be insisting on full interoperability to NATO standards. Would that be a fair statement?

Lt-Gen Barrons: Absolutely.

Mr Havard: So with a French commander and a British deputy, we have a great opportunity within NATO transformation to lead this discussion.

Chair: They are both impressive people.

Q408 Penny Mordaunt: There are clearly lessons to be learnt from Afghanistan. The Committee is obviously very interested in how they are going to be taken forward. I want you to comment on a particular issue that we raised in our last report and have also raised with regard to other operations, such as Libya, and that is on the quality of the supply chain for ordnance. We had issues with the Brimstone missile and stockpiles waiting to be reconditioned, and elsewhere we raised the issue of ordnance on our warships. Can you reassure the Committee that there are structures now in place at your Department to ensure that whatever ordnance we need is where we need it, in the condition we need it, when we need it?

Mr Hammond: That is a very all-embracing statement. What I can say to you is that there is a much greater focus, post-Libya, on the supply chain for complex weapons, including things like Brimstone. We have also been able over the last 12 months to make some significant investments in rebuilding stockpiles of complex weapons.

Lt-Gen Barrons: With the more challenging complex munitions, part of the peril is that they are so complex-they are machines rather than things that simply explode-so we would expect to hold some that are at high readiness, some at lower readiness to preserve their life and there then has to be some rotation. One of the key lessons from Libya is that the amount that you hold at high readiness has to be sufficient to keep up with demand if you go into an operation like that. There is a relationship between the rate at which you expend munitions and the rate at which industry can replace them. We have had to look again at that.

Mr Hammond: If I may make an observation as well: there is a juggling act here. Bringing additional munitions up to readiness has a cost and the military has to make judgments, trying to read what is happening in the sort of foreign affairs/security space. It is almost trying to work in a vacuum, really, without clear political instructions, because for very obvious reasons politicians don’t routinely want to send messages to the military saying, "Make ready 500 of the following." So the military has to kind of juggle this and judge where to invest scarce capital to bring munitions up to readiness, where to deploy them and how to make sure that we are as ready as we can be for the kind of eventualities that look most likely at any given point of time.

Q409 Chair: Secretary of State, we have held you now for nearly two and a quarter hours, and I think we’re done. Are you done? Is there anything that you’d like to add that you haven’t said?

Mr Hammond: No, I think we have covered a lot of ground, and I will answer the point about deterrent spending. It is probably in the pack somewhere, but I will write to you tomorrow with the answer.

Chair: That would be extremely helpful. Probably it needs to be graphically done. Perhaps you could do a graph over the next 10 years or so, to give us an idea of what percentage of defence spending is going to be covered by the nuclear deterrent and whether we are going to take advantage of that to reduce some of our other defence spending, which might be a shame. Thank you very much, both of you, for an excellent evidence session.


[1] Note by witness: subsequently corrected to 1.4% a month

[2] Note by witness: subsequently corrected to 3.5%

[3] Note by witness : subsequently corrected to 228, 500

[4] Note by witness : subsequently corrected to 228, 500

[5] Note by witness : subsequently corrected to 228, 500

[6] Note by witness : subsequently corrected to 228, 500

[7] Note by witness: subsequently corrected to “21 days notice in writing to the public interest lawyers”

[8] Note by witness: subsequently corrected to 21 days

[9] Note by witness: subsequently corrected to 1.4%

Prepared 8th April 2013