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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will comment on the

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unanimous view of the aid agencies present in Afghanistan on the bombing pause. The noble Lord seemed to discount everything that they say.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, I understand that such a pause in the bombing would not make any difference to how those agencies are able to distribute the food. It is the Taliban which is preventing the food being distributed.

8.45 p.m.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, today's debate has been wide ranging. It has been characterised by the knowledge, experience and expertise which has been a feature of debates on this subject in this House.

We had two notable maiden speeches. I am sure that the whole House will benefit from the wisdom and knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, and of my noble friend Lord Jones. The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, set out very clearly the complexity of the issue and, in particular, the difficulty of trying to balance the values and principles which we hold dear, including a commitment to openness and communication and the need to keep the element of surprise in terms of our military strategy.

My noble friend Lord Jones reminded us of the importance and depth of our relationship with the United States. He also made insightful comments about our intelligence services. The House looks forward to hearing more from both noble Lords.

In the time available it is difficult for me to do justice to the range of issues which have been raised today. I intend to concentrate on four key themes; first, the humanitarian situation; secondly, our political objectives; thirdly, the conflict in the Middle East; and, fourthly, the military action. If time permits I shall try to address some of the specific points which have been raised. But I undertake to write to noble Lords if there are any specific questions which I am unable to address.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan pre-dated the military action. At least 12 million of the 26 million estimated Afghan population were severely or moderately affected as a direct result of three years of drought on top of over two decades of conflict. Over 3 million people were receiving food assistance from the World Food Programme. Famine conditions were being reported in several districts in the western region, in the north east and in the central highlands. Severe malnutrition among children and, in some cases, famine-related deaths had also been recorded. Conflict and drought have generated over 4 million refugees, 2 million in Pakistan, 1.5 million in Iran and 0.5 million elsewhere in the region and beyond. Since the summer of 2000 some 700,000 to 900,000 people became newly displaced within Afghanistan and approximately 370,000 sought refuge in Pakistan and Iran.

As was made clear by my noble friend Lord Bach in his opening speech, the humanitarian effort is of equal importance to the military effort. That point has been

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endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield and other noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Joffe, with his extensive experience, spoke of the difficulties of food distribution. The humanitarian situation remains fragile. There has been a steady increase in food dispatched to Afghanistan since mid October. However, a few good days does not represent a sustained trend. We are still short of WFP's target of 1,700 tonnes a day. There is a desperate need to sustain any increase by capitalising on recent progress. We need to do better.

The UNHCR and the Pakistan authorities estimate that 110,000 Afghans may have crossed into Pakistan since 11th September. Thousands more are gathered at the border. We are urging all Afghanistan's neighbours to open the borders and give safe passage to people fleeing from Afghanistan. The World Food Programme is also looking to open up new land routes and to finding new ways of providing food. It is considering the possibility of air-dropping supplies into those areas of Afghanistan which shortly will be cut off by snow.

My noble friend Lord Desai referred to the way in which the Taliban works against the welfare of its own citizens, as did the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. I regret to inform the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, that we are dealing with a brutal regime. The Taliban continues to hinder the efforts of the aid agencies. Reports have been received over recent days about how the Taliban has been looting and vandalising UN agency buildings and NGO offices, as well as taking vehicles. The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, mentioned the fact that the Taliban still has control of the WFP warehouse in Kandahar. This is not a regime that is interested in looking after its own people.

The WFP has signed agreements with NGOs to distribute food throughout the country. That will enable it to bypass hubs in urban areas and thus deliver supplies directly to the rural regions. That point was raised by my noble friend Lady Turner. We have agreed to contribute £600,000 to help finance a joint collaborative effort with the WFP and the Russian Government to increase food deliveries from Tajikistan to north-east Afghanistan over the next few weeks. Operational details are still being finalised, but the result of the joint UK/UN/Russian effort will be the delivery of a further 9,000 tonnes of food to Afghanistan over the coming two months. The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, asked specifically when the new route will be opened. I can tell the noble Lord that we expect it to be operational by 10th November.

Pakistan continues to provide the main route for food supplies into Afghanistan. The WFP has reported that over recent weeks nearly 7,500 tonnes of supplies have been delivered through Turkmenistan.

My noble friend Lord Rea argued for a pause in the bombing and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, raised the matter in the context of dealing with the humanitarian situation. The removal of the Taliban, which is necessary to secure our objectives of bringing

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bin Laden to justice and closing down Al'Qaeda's headquarters in Afghanistan, is absolutely necessary if the people of that country are to have any hope for the future. Bombing is always to be regretted, but it is essential to the interests of the people of Afghanistan that we carry through our efforts to success. The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, might be interested to learn that a spokesperson for the WFP stated on 21st October that:

    "One has to remember that working in Afghanistan has always been difficult, before September 11th as well as after. I am not convinced that we would be able to bring more food in if the bombing halted".

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked about humanitarian aid corridors. The problem is precisely that raised by the noble Lord; that is, it is not clear who would be responsible for policing, as it were, aid corridors in the situation currently pertaining in Afghanistan. We need to maximise our opportunities for the delivery of assistance, but aid corridors would be difficult to maintain and would require the presence of substantial numbers of troops on the ground.

Perhaps I may turn to the political situation. The people of Afghanistan have suffered terribly over many years. Outside powers have interfered and weakened their state. The failed state has resulted in civil war, famine and gross misgovernment by a brutal regime that twists and distorts the teachings of Islam. Bin Laden and the Al'Qaeda network are based in Afghanistan for precisely those reasons.

In response to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, I think it is important to make absolutely clear the Government's position. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has set out four key principles for the future of Afghanistan. They match the elements set out by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, in his contribution, and are as follows: first, that the Afghan people must determine their own destiny; secondly, that the international community should form a coalition to help in that process, a point which was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Plant; thirdly, that the UN should play a leading role in any transition—I shall return to that point in due course; and, lastly, that resources should be devoted to complete the task.

My noble friend Lord Judd asked specifically about the shape of any future government. We consider that it is for the people of Afghanistan to decide, but we believe that it must be broad based and representative of all the ethnic groups. It must command broad consent among those whom it governs and move from being a regime to become a government. We see the role of the UN as facilitating, but not imposing, a solution. There is a collective desire to work with the Afghan people to bring Afghanistan back into the family of nations. For the first time, a strong international coalition is seeking to sustain a political process, providing humanitarian relief and committed to rebuilding the country and its institutions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and other noble Lords, that this can come about only as part of a long-term strategy. Let there be no mistake: it is one which includes the present military action.

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The noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Sandberg, as well as other noble Lords, raised the role of the UN in terms of planning for the future. Ambassador Brahimi, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, is working on a plan for a replacement, broad-based government in Afghanistan which would be representative of the people and ready to co-operate with the international community. The world is united in support of his efforts. I say to my noble friend Lord Judd, who asked specifically about the need for the UN to be resourced properly in order to carry out this task, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced last Thursday in another place that the UK is making available £1 million to Ambassador Brahimi. Under his leadership, the UN is convening as wide a representative group of Afghan opinion as possible. When the present Taliban regime falls, as it surely must, a broad-based successor regime should be ready to take its place. Only then can we hope to tackle the huge political, humanitarian and reconstruction challenges facing the Afghan people. We shall not fail them. The international community will provide the resources, expertise and determination to ensure that Afghanistan recovers.

My noble friend Lord Mitchell raised the possible role of Iraq. I shall say to my noble friend that we are not speculating on the involvement of anyone other than Osama bin Laden in the 11th September terrorist attacks on the United States.

The noble Lords, Lord Weatherill and Lord Vivian, referred specifically to Pakistan. We applaud Pakistan's decision to back international action against terrorism. Pakistan is a valuable ally. Its decision to support the coalition has served to strengthen our bilateral relationship. As regards the question of sanctions against Pakistan, I think it would be helpful if I set out the position as it stands. The UK never did impose any formal sanctions against Pakistan after the 1998 nuclear tests or after the coup in 1999. However, constraints are imposed by the UK Export Licensing Regime and applications from all countries, including Pakistan, will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis against our national criteria and the EU code of conduct.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield asked about the persecution of Christian minorities and the human rights situation in Pakistan. We are very concerned about the situation of religious minorities in Pakistan and were horrified to learn of the killing of Christians over the weekend. While there is no systematic or government-led persecution of minorities in Pakistan, extremists and sectarian groups have been responsible for violence and intimidation across the country. We will continue to urge the Pakistani Government to take tough action against such groups, bring them to justice and take steps to protect all minorities from further harm.

The noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, and other noble Lords have raised the need to influence public opinion, including in the Islamic world. There can be no doubting the need to win hearts and minds.

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Ministers have briefed and will continue to brief the Arab and Muslim press. Officials have appeared on Arab satellite channels speaking in Arabic because we feel that we have a good message and that we need to get that message across. Let us not forget that Arab and Gulf states were among the first to condemn the recent attacks.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, my noble friend Lord Judd, the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, my noble friend Lord Hardy, the noble Lords, Lord Blaker, Lord Beaumont of Whitley and Lord Plant, and my noble friend Lord Mitchell spoke about the conflict in the Middle East. The continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the leading causes of instability in the Middle East. It fuels frustration, fear and mistrust on both sides and is an easy cover for extremists to hide behind. A swift, just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, therefore, essential because of its wider significance.

Progress towards a permanent peace settlement is important in its own right. The suffering of the peoples of the region caused by years of conflict and hatred is reason enough for the international community to renew its contribution to peace efforts. We are doing just that. Britain has been a long-standing friend of both Israel and the Palestinian people in their search for peace. We have devoted great energy to the Mitchell report and the Tenet accords and we have stepped up our engagement recently. That is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister travelled to the region last week. He re-emphasised the importance of action by both Israelis and Palestinians to help to create an atmosphere of security and trust, and offered Britain's continued support to those who are willing to take the necessary steps for peace. He is following up those talks with a visit to Washington on Wednesday. I welcome the recognition around the House of the important role that he has played in building the international consensus.

Let me now turn to the military action. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, made a plea for better communication of our objective. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, mentioned the importance of military action in support of the political effort. The struggle against international terrorism will be long and multi-faceted, embracing diplomatic, financial, economic and humanitarian aspects as well as the military. Its aim is to secure the twin goals of justice and security. Our immediate objectives are fourfold: to bring bin Laden and Al'Qaeda to justice; to prevent bin Laden and Al'Qaeda from posing a continuing terrorist threat; to ensure that Afghanistan verifiably ceases to harbour and sustain international terrorism and terrorist training camps; and, assuming that Mullah Omar does not comply, we require sufficient change in the leadership to ensure that Afghanistan's links with international terrorism are broken.

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The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, referred to our military objectives, which are threefold: to destroy the terrorist camps; to pressurise the Taliban to end its support for bin Laden; and to enable us to mount future operations in Afghanistan. My noble friend Lord Bach indicated our success against each of those objectives.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked why cluster bombs were being used. They are used when they are the most appropriate weapon for the target concerned. I can assure the noble Lord that the coalition has not used them indiscriminately. It is important to remind the House that the use of cluster bombs is legal and that they have been used only against legitimate military targets.

My noble friend Lord Judd raised a number of questions relating to the coalition's targeting policy. Noble Lords will appreciate that I am not able at this point to discuss in detail the methods by which the coalition selects bombing targets. However, I can assure the House that neither the Afghan civilian population nor their homes or properties have been targeted. We are extremely rigorous in selecting only targets that are directly associated with Osama bin Laden, Al'Qaeda or the Taliban military infrastructure. We are always extremely sensitive to the object of minimising civilian casualties. I should like to reassure my noble friend that we always act in accordance with international law in our military operations.

My noble friend Lady Turner spoke powerfully about the impact of the bombing and about civilian casualties. We know that military action inevitably places civilians at risk, but we try to reduce those risks to the absolute minimum. As I said, our targeting processes are rigorous. We attack only the legitimate targets of terrorists and military forces and installations, and then only with the weapons that are right for the job. Sadly, mistakes can happen and we very much regret them.

The question of the role of the Territorial Army in the current situation was raised by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I should like to stress that the Government are fully aware of the value of our reserve forces. Some 150 personnel have already been called out on an individual volunteer basis to fill posts where they hold specialist skills and experience. Others will be used if that is appropriate. It would be helpful to remind the House that in the former Yugoslavia, for example, some 10 per cent. of UK forces deployed since 1995 have been reservists.

My noble friend Lord Judd, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, sought assurances about the Government's intentions with respect to military and humanitarian action and, in particular, the co-ordination of that action. We have urged the UN to establish a mechanism in Islamabad to ensure that the necessary links are in place to deconflict humanitarian and military activities. Currently this is being done at headquarters level, although ad hoc information exchange is taking place in the region. We expect to see these mechanisms

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formalised soon. In the meantime, we are making every effort, together with our US colleagues, to ensure that the humanitarian situation is well understood by military planners.

Before I conclude, perhaps I may quickly answer three specific questions. The noble Lords, Lord King of Bridgwater and Lord Vivian, asked about funding for the intelligence agencies. Ministers have recognised that SIS, the security service and GCHQ have a vital part to play in countering terrorism. They have approved in principle the allocation of additional funds to these agencies to allow them to increase their efforts against terrorist targets without withdrawing too many resources from high priority areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, asked specifically about drugs. UN figures show that Afghanistan is the source of about 75 per cent of the world's heroin; and about 90 per cent of the heroin on the streets in the UK originates in Afghanistan. Illicit drug production doubled in the three years after the Taliban took control. In July last year, the Taliban effectively banned opium poppy cultivation, but it did not ban stockpiling and trafficking. We are committed to strengthening drug control in the region. I agree with the noble Lord that it is important to cut off access to funding through this route.

The noble Lords, Lord King and Lord Blaker, talked about the importance of supporting the BBC. We have provided £200,000 to the BBC World Service Trust, which is the charitable arm of the BBC World Service, for live line information and education programming in Afghanistan and the region.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, for his positive comments and support. I agree with him that it is important to win the battle in Afghanistan. The noble Lord, Lord Biffen, said that there are unavoidable, uncomfortable political challenges. We all recognise the complexity of the challenges that face us in relation to these issues, but we must hold to our resolve and we are determined to succeed.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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