Securing the Future of Afghanistan - Defence Committee Contents


151. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. It has suffered many years of conflict. Prime Minister Tony Blair promised 'The conflict will not be the end, we will not walk away as the outside world has done so many times before.' Throughout this inquiry into securing the future of Afghanistan, we have received starkly opposing evidence and narratives of future scenarios following the withdrawal of combat forces from those which are overly optimistic to those which see only gloom and doom. The fact is that the UK will have limited influence and, indeed, it is for the Afghan people themselves to determine for their future. The best the UK can do is to withdraw in good order and engage with external partners to improve the chances of Afghanistan going forward. In so doing the UK and its international partners must show the Afghan people that they will abide by their obligations to continue to support them in their efforts including in the area of women's rights which, at the start of the conflict, the then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, described as 'non-negotiable'.

152. Securing the future of Afghanistan requires the concerted efforts of all the Afghan people; regional neighbours, in particular Pakistan; the USA; NATO and other coalition partners. Much detailed work needs to be done before the end of combat operations at the end of 2014. We recognise that achieving a peaceful Afghanistan is a process not an event but Afghanistan has to be given the best chance when it takes over full responsibility for its own security.

153. In the process of establishing a peaceful and functioning Afghanistan, we will be looking for evidence of:

  If not a concluded peace settlement, at least the start of the process, with the insurgency including Taliban—it should be Afghan led but supported by neighbours such as Pakistan, and the international community must do its utmost to ensure that all the people of Afghanistan, including women, are brought into the process;

  Open and free elections;

  An appropriately trained and equipped ANSF able to maintain security against a continuing and possibly increased threat of insurgency with financial support after 2014;

  Continuing support for economic development including the provision of aid, the maintenance of this aid will be crucial both in strengthening the Afghan Government's hand in negotiations and ensuring that the West continues to have a voice in Afghanistan;

  A strong judicial system; and

  A reduction in the level of corruption and some measure of control of drug production and the drug trade.

154. The UK Government has a responsibility to use such influence as remains to it to make a post-2014 Afghanistan work. In response to our Report, the Government should set out what it intends to do in support of the above goals in the run up to the end of 2014. It should also set out how it intends to communicate these objectives and the end of the military mission to the Afghan and UK populations, in particular, what more needs to be done to ensure that the ANSF are able to deliver the security of Afghanistan after 2014. We recognise that the UK is only one player in ensuring a successful Afghanistan but we urge the Government to use its influence with the international community to achieve much more in Afghanistan before the end of 2014.

155. If the UK is to continue to provide financial and training support to Afghanistan post 2014 there needs to be a clear articulation of the areas the UK will fund and support and the outcomes it expects to achieve. It must be clear to those engaged in the peace negotiations that, in providing support in the future, the UK will be paying close attention to the progress on the rights of women, children and minority groups, the tackling of corruption and the furtherance of the rule of law.

156. We have received very little information from the MoD and the FCO as to how they plan to be involved in Afghanistan beyond 2014. Given there are less than two years before the end of 2014, the Government should inform us how it sees its future role in Afghanistan.

157. The withdrawal of UK Armed Forces will involve a demanding and complex set of tasks. The UK Armed Forces and other allies face many challenges in the withdrawal of the military equipment in Afghanistan. As the plans for withdrawal mature, the MoD should provide us with the detailed plans, if necessary on a classified basis. The MoD should put the protection of the Armed Forces at the forefront of its preparation and planning.

158. Finally, we recommend that, in 2015, the Government undertake a comprehensive and detailed lessons learned process which looks forward to how these lessons will influence the future decision making processes of the MoD, DFID and the FCO and other Government Departments, as well as a major review of what the UK has achieved and not achieved in Afghanistan in the period 2001 to 2014.

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Prepared 10 April 2013