1 Introduction |
1. The Defence Committee announced an
inquiry into Securing the Future of Afghanistan on 18 June 2012.
Our inquiry has been conducted against the planned withdrawal
of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat troops
at the end of 2014 and the transfer of responsibility for security
to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). We decided that
the inquiry would examine progress towards a secure and stable
Afghanistan within the wider region, including Pakistan, and the
plans by the UK, NATO and other allies for a smooth transition
of responsibility for security to the Afghan Government and the
2. We have taken oral and written evidence
from a wide range of witnesses and have had several informal briefings
from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and others about Afghanistan
and the surrounding region. The MoD provided written evidence
to the Committee at the start of the inquiry and further information
in response to our detailed questions which arose in the course
of the inquiry.
3. We visited Afghanistan in November
2012 and spent time in Kabul and Helmand including a patrol base,
Sparta. We spoke with members of the Afghan Government including
President Karzai, Defence Minister Bismullah Khan, Minister Patang
at the Ministry for the Interior and the Women's Minister Ghazanfar.
We received extensive briefings from Sir Richard Stagg, the UK
Ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt General Nick Carter, the Deputy
Commander of ISAF, and Ambassador Maurits Jochems, the NATO Senior
Civilian Representative to Afghanistan. In addition, we spoke
to Afghans involved in the peace process, the ANSF and other aspects
of the Afghan Government and with members of ISAF and UK Forces
and others. We also saw new court and prison facilities near Kabul.
We are grateful to our special advisers and staff for their assistance
in this inquiry.
4. During this inquiry, we have also
been mindful of the recent report on the UK's foreign policy
approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Foreign Affairs
Committee and also that
of the International Development Committee on Afghanistan:
Development progress and prospects after 2014.
5. We last reported on Operations in
Afghanistan in July 2011.
In that report we focused on:
Operations in Helmand in 2006;
Military operations since 2009;
Training of the Afghan National
The impact on the civilian population;
Transition and withdrawal.
The previous Defence Committee reported
on operations in Afghanistan in July 2007: UK operations in
of the issues raised in that Report remain of concern today. One
of the Committee's primary concerns was the necessity that the
international community should focus on establishing security
and denying the Taliban and al-
Qaeda the environment in which
Background to the situation in
6. In its written evidence on this inquiry,
the Government described the current situation in Afghanistan.
We consider this assessment to be of sufficient importance to
repeat it in Box 1 as the backdrop to our inquiry into Securing
the Future of Afghanistan.
|Box 1: Government assessment of the situation in Afghanistan
Over 30 years of conflict have left Afghanistan one of the poorest countries in the world. Afghanistan ranks 172 out of 187 countries and territories on the UN's Human Development Indexthe lowest outside of Africa. A third of Afghans live below the poverty line; one in six children die before their fifth birthday; and average life expectancy is just 48. Only one in four Afghans are able to read and write. Afghanistan remains off-track on all the Millennium Development Goals and has agreed a five year extension until 2020. Corruption is a problem felt personally by many Afghans, fuelled by patronage politics and a war economy. Women and girls still face enormous challenges and huge disadvantages in the areas of political participation and decision-making.
A weak and politically unstable state fosters insecurity and holds back social and economic development. Afghanistan's diverse cultural and ethnic mix, and resistance to change from external influences, are contributing factors. Poor governance and corruption undermine trust in the government, while weak public sector capacity hinders service delivery. The transition process is now well underway but it will likely be another decade before the Afghan Government is able to pay for its own security costs without external support.
From this low base, progress has been made over the last ten years. 5.8 million children now attend school, over a third of whom are girls, up from virtually none under the Taliban. 85% of Afghans are now covered by basic health services, compared to 9% in 2002. The economy has grown by an average of 11% per annum since 2002, and tax revenue has risen from $200m in 2004 to a preliminary estimate of $2bn in 2011-2012; progress is being made on strengthening public financial management, and local government is improving in some areas.
The Afghan government is increasingly taking the lead, in working for better security, governance, social and economic opportunities for Afghan people. Long term stability in Afghanistan will also be dependent on increased regional cooperation and integration, particularly on issues such as security, trade and economic infrastructure. While improvements have been made, considerable challenges still lie ahead.
Armed Forces and civilian personnel
7. We wish to pay tribute to all the
British personnel, both military and civilian, who are currently
serving or have served in Afghanistan but, in particular, to those
who have lost their lives, and the many more who have sustained
life-changing injuries as a result of the conflict there. We also
express our deep gratitude for the vital contribution made by
the families of Armed Forces personnel. We are mindful that some
of the conclusions in this Report could be interpreted as a criticism
of the men and women who have worked in extremely hazardous, hostile
and difficult conditions. We wish to place on record that no such
criticism is intended: the Armed Forces and civilian personnel
in Afghanistan have our full support in tackling the challenges
8. The major cost of operations has
been the loss of lives of Armed Forces personnel and the number
of personnel receiving very severe injuries. From the start of
operations in Afghanistan in 2001to 31 January 2013, 440 personnel
were killed with a further 596 very seriously or seriously wounded.
We wish to pay tribute to the dedication of the Armed Forces
and the sacrifices they and their families have made and continue
1 Foreign Affairs Committee, The UK's foreign policy
approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Fourth Report of 2010-11
HC 514 Back
International Development Committee, Afghanistan: Development
progress and prospects after 2014, Sixth Report of 201213,
HC 403 Back
Defence Committee, Operations in Afghanistan , Fourth Report
of Session 2010-12, HC 554 Back
Defence Committee, UK Operations in Afghanistan , Thirteenth
Report of Session 2006-07, HC 408 Back
Ev 82 Back