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As regards the specialists, we will now have a specialist team, independently scrutinising these issues, which we believe will add value to what is already done. It will not diminish what is being done, because we hope that that will be maintained, but in addition there will be a greater degree of expertise and acuity from the other professionals conducting the joint inspections.
A number of reports, not least from Andrew Bridges, the Chief Inspector of Probation, have outlined graphically how they see the added value. We believe that as a result of the joined-up working, we will be able to get not only what we have now, but the added value of a joined-up inspection. For those reasons, I invite the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, not to press his amendment. Hell will doubtless freeze over first.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank noble Lords from all sides of the House who have spoken with such power and clarity anddare I say it?unanimity on this issue. I also thank the Minister for the care with which she has listened to what has been said and for the habitual courtesy with which she has responded. But she has not persuaded me by what she has said, and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in the light of the outcome of the Division, I think it would be right for me to advise the House that I shall not now move the government amendments in this group: Amendments Nos. 90, 93 and 97.
We have supported the agenda for Afghanistan set out by Jack Straw some five years ago. It was clear that the international community had failed the country at the end of the Cold War and that we had to change it from the haven for terrorism that it had become. This required the international community working together on reconstruction and economic development which, in turn, required political reform and adequate security for the rule of law.
During the past five years, progress has been madeI am sure that the Minister will tell us about that progressbut it has been much slower than it should have been. That is because the main players moved resources to the foolish adventures in Iraq. The trends are now not as positive as we might wish. Non-governmental organisations are reporting that deteriorating security in many formerly peaceful provinces has resulted in a disabling environment for development. Although there is visible economic activity and improvement of infrastructure in many parts of the country, persistent unemployment and high levels of corruption are increasingly problematic. I shall focus primarily on the new developments this year, and ask the Minister several questions about the effect of the changes on overall progress and what the British Government intend to do about them. Unlike in Iraq, we have benchmarks against which to measure progress. The Afghanistan compact was drawn up in London in January, and gives us those benchmarks for a range of issues, including security, drugs, gender equality, and social and economic development.
Although formulated only nine months ago, these benchmarks now seem overly optimistic. For example, all illegal armed groups will be disarmed by
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The United Nations and the Afghan Government launched a drought appeal in July. Why has the United Kingdom not committed any funds to the appeal so far? In all this, the security strategy is key. As we heard earlier this afternoon, NATO has taken responsibility for the whole of Afghanistan. The recent fighting in the south, including Operation Medusa in Kandahar province, has had a major impact on civilians. The Afghan Government have reported that 4,000 families in Helmand and 2,500 families in Kandahar have been displaced as a result of this ongoing conflict. Will the Minister tell us what assessment the British Government have made of the humanitarian effects of the fighting in the south?
For five years, the United States has led the coalition under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom, which has been pounding the south and the east in a failed attempt to find Osama bin Laden. No significant reconstruction work has been done there, and the Taliban has grown experienced and more confident. Nor, even after five years, do we seem to have much of an intelligence picture of the operational theatre, given the mis-assessment of the past three months. Until today, I have not joined in the criticism about a confused strategy. While NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom had separate geographical areas of responsibility, the strategy was perhaps manageable, if unusual. As I indicated earlier today in our debate on the Statement on Iraq and Afghanistan, I am seriously concerned. NATO is responsible for the whole of Afghanistan through the ISAF mission. Meanwhile, 8,000 troops under American control will operate under Operation Enduring Freedom, and the US-controlled air power will not be transferred to NATO. Was there ever a military operation like this before, with two major forces with overlapping remits operating in the same areas? In February, when the United States takes command of NATO forces, which agenda will have priority? This is of real concern to NGOs operating in the field. They have found it very difficult to near impossible to work in a theatre where offensive air power is the weapon of choice.
But this is not the only turf war. Did the Minister read Christina Lambs report from Afghanistan in the latest edition of the Sunday Times, in which she said that a DfID representative speaking about
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When we talk to the NGOs, however, they are critical of the funds going to military aspects compared with the money available for development work. Does the Minister agree that the Ministry of Defence, DfID and the NGOs must have a common purpose? Where does the Foreign Office stand in these disputes? Does it favour the quick-fix approach offered by the military, or the long-term sustainable development approach for which the development agencies are arguing? Are the British Government providing sufficient resources to do both? Both are obviously important.
We on these Benches have no doubt that the future of Afghanistan is vital to the long-term security of United Kingdom citizens, as well as the greater aim of providing security for the people of Afghanistan. It is already a difficult task; it will become an impossible one if the United States and NATO operate different military strategies at the same time in the same place, and if the military and the aid agencies are in dispute. Will the Minister give us some assurance that these tensions are being addressed?
Lord Brennan: My Lords, I commend the Governments programme for Afghanistan, but I recommend that they pursue that programme, first, with a considered and flexible strategy, secondly with caution, and thirdly with the opportunity for regular review. Above all, the Government must strive to avoid a significant gap being created between their political aspirations and the capacity to execute those aspirations with the military or in the development field, both of which are inextricably linked. I take this cautious view because historically Afghanistan is a complex and difficult geopolitical arena militarily. It survived 20 Russian divisions and saw the rise and fall of the Taliban in bloody circumstances. There is a Pashtun revival and a porous border with Pakistan, so history suggests the caution that I have recommended. With regard to aid, it is a misuse of words to speak of reconstruction in Afghanistan. Rather, it is a process of construction. That means time, money and long-term effort and commitment. The question is whether it will work for development.
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Militarily and in the field of development, this country should determine what is best for that country and what is within our reasonable capacity to help it to achieve that. That means considering both the short-term and the long-term strategy. As of 5 October, NATO has taken military command of the military situation in Afghanistan under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Richards. Military men in his position are careful in their choice of words. Earlier this week, he said that we were at a tipping point and had six months in which to achieve a significant change so that the people are with us and are not driven against us. That is a very tight and very tough timetable within which to achieve his declared objective of having the people come on the side of NATO and the Afghan Government. So what is the short-term strategy?
Secondly, I turn to the long term. History demands that if you enter Afghanistan to seek to change it you thereby commit yourself to a process of a number of years. That commitment I understand to have been made by this country and its partners in NATO. They must fulfil that commitment; that is, all of them, not just us. NATO is with us and its member countries acting as a group of common partners with shared objectives, which means that you have to commit yourself to the responsibility of supply and potential damage to your troops. At the moment, the relationship of combat troops to the rest in NATO is wholly out of proportion. How can NATO, therefore, be seen to make that change unless there is more commitment?
Thirdly, do we have enough strategic assets as a NATO force, not just British helicopters for British troops? What is our alternative strategy if it is not to be NATO, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, raised this afternoon? Finally, since 2001 we have contributed £390 million to that country through DfID in aid. It is our fifth largest target for donations and we are the second largest aid provider. Have we carried out a results-based analysis? Is it going the right way? These are very large sums of money to direct to Afghanistan. I regret to mention the introduction of the Promulgation of Virtue and Prohibition of Vice Committee. The title bemuses us, but what does it mean for women in Afghanistan if we are spending this kind of money? I close positively. We as a Government are giving leadership, which means responsibility by us to lead others in the objectives that we have declared.
Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I thank, first, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, albeit in her absence, for having instituted this debate; secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Garden, for introducing it; and, thirdly, the Government for having made a substantial commitment over the years to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Long may that continue. However, Afghanistan remains a fragile statenot, thankfully, as fragile as it was, but nevertheless certainly not stable.
I want to look briefly at the logic of the multilateral aid programme and to question the
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The aim of the donor community as laid out in the Bonn process and underlined again at the London conference earlier this year was and is to build capacity in all sectors in Afghanistan. Last January, donors launched the Afghanistan compact, part of which was concerned with ensuring that aid be allocated almost exclusively through the various Afghan ministries. This has led to a somewhat two-headed approach of conforming with President Karzais wishes, but at the same time undermining the development goals of the Karzai and Blair governments. The Department for International Development now channels something like 70 per cent of aid via the government, with the concomitant decrease in funds available for those NGOs working at local levels. That of course allows for a measure of accountability, but in recent months it has become more obvious that the government simply do not have the capacity to spend aid money on agreed infrastructure and other projects. Recent estimates suggest that perhaps only 10 per cent of available aid money has been spent.
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