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Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I shall follow the lead given by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, on Afghan issues and her striking analysis of Afghan poverty. Afghanistan has been subject to almost 200 years of continuous foreign intervention because of its geographical position. Being between what was British India, now Pakistan, and the tsarist and then Soviet empire, and east of a long frontier with Persia, now Iran, has made Afghanistan the subject of continuous interest. Time after time, the scale of foreign intervention has turned Afghanistan into a client state, the rules of the game having little to do with Afghan interests yet the outcome of each engagement being of no more than tactical importance to the players—short-term policy dominated, first, by London, Delhi and Moscow and

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later by Washington, Islamabad and Tehran. Modern technology in warfare and within the global economy has changed the rules. There was the Russian occupation from 1979 to 1989, the Pakistani-backed Taliban, al-Qaeda, the overthrow of the Taliban, the destruction of al-Qaeda and now NATO.

No longer can we rely on short-term policies. The risks are unacceptable. Afghanistan's 24 million people have acquired a geopolitical importance which fully engages with our strategic interests. In the past 30 years, there has also been extreme ideological intervention in Afghanistan. There was the break-up of the monarchy, with its complex history of succession; the rise of Marxist/Leninist factions; the arrival of the Soviets, and the Islamist response to their departure; the medieval Taliban regime demonstrating extremism at its worst—and all that in contrast to Afghanistan before the early 1970s. Until then the moderate Hanafi school of Sunni Islam predominated. Indeed, the 1964 constitution, while recognising Hanafi practice, wrote in a separation of powers and established a system of secular courts. The attempt was only partially successful, as was the system of elections to the parliament.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been attracted to centralisation and command and control, choosing instead to maintain their many differing societies, consistent with ethnic grouping; for example, the Uzbek and Tajik people of the north, living south of the River Armu beyond which lie Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The largest and often dominant ethnic group in the south, the Pashtuns, are divided between Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Durand line of 1893. That settlement has been, and remains, a source of discontent and dispute. It has contributed to major changes in Pakistani policy, from backing the Taliban to today's expressions of support for the US-led war on terror. I hope that the Government are more certain than I am about the continuing role of the Pakistani directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Has that leopard fully changed its spots? If a Taliban fighter, once trained, is paid more than an Afghan policeman, it spells trouble.

Economically, Afghanistan suffers from being landlocked and having very difficult terrain and a climate of extremes. Although it has natural resources, they are difficult to develop. Given an income of less than $1 a day per head of population, a third of which comes from narcotics, President Musharraf has a point when calling for economic development on the lines of the Marshall Plan. One thoughtful estimate proposes a $20 billion investment programme in addition to present official aid, which is nearly all aimed at current government expenditure. Indeed, if the institutions which are necessary to a successful 21st century state are to develop, Afghanistan's income per head needs to rise sharply. In any chicken-and-egg analysis, income needs to rise first to achieve democratic institutions and not the other way around; nor is there any way in which the necessary capital formation can come from the savings of people as poor as the Afghans. Taxation

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is at one of the lowest levels in the world because there is not much to tax, nor any widespread collection system.

Whether for reasons of the West's relationship with Islam, of the geopolitical balance in the region or the need to see NATO succeed, it is in our interests to stay with the challenging problems of Afghanistan and to see the country through to becoming a stable, significantly secular state, at peace with itself and its neighbours, a state to which many more far-flung expatriates will wish to return and which can play a part in the global economy. Membership of the global economy is now a necessary condition for peace and stability. In total, those objectives are way beyond any task that we have so far set ourselves, the most difficult challenge being the separation of religion from secular society in a country committed to development. Malaysia has shown that that can be done, as has Indonesia, at least so far.

Considering our present contribution, our forces on the ground come first with their professionalism and long experience of countering terrorism and civil disorder. It is right that we praise them, but what task have we set them? Does it include knowledge and involvement in economic development alongside the Department for International Development, the World Bank and NATO? What about the economic implications of the long-running dispute with Iran over the use of the waters of the River Helmand, or do we look only for less Taliban-led disruption and violence and for the destruction of poppies? What happens after that? As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said, imagination is needed.

On the DfID website the country profile of Afghanistan is instructive and depressing. Its opening description is pessimistic. Its catalogue of comparatively small aid initiatives is focused on support to a Government who do not inspire DfID's confidence. Amazingly, its pages make no mention of NATO or of British troops on the ground. While the World Bank recognises that major private sector development is vital for sustainable economic progress, DfID confines itself to micro-initiatives. None of that will give the Afghans confidence that there is a substitute for poppy income and none is in prospect. As DfID says, its plans, which are short term, do not deal with medium- and long-term economic challenges. The economic issues faced by Afghanistan have changed those rules too.

DfID needs to think through its intellectual approach. Just what level of income per head would provide a better chance of peace and stability, and how could we achieve it? What about a well targeted $20 billion investment in productive assets, with a security situation which did not unduly affect the costs of construction? A co-ordinated approach led by the Washington institutions incorporating Europe-wide and bilateral programmes should be carefully examined. In default of a co-ordinated development strategy, it is not enough to call it reconstruction. We are in danger of repeating the post-war issues of Iraq. Yet, with a strategy, we could lift Afghan incomes to between $800 and $1,000 a head. That might break the cycle of poverty.



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It will be recognised that such a determined and expensive strategy would be difficult to sell to domestic electorates, but it is not impossible. The more than 600 million people of North America and Europe are well capable of lifting 24 million Afghans out of poverty. The great benefits of demonstrating that the West can succeed do not need elaboration; they are obvious.

Let us not do half a job: going as far as lessening violence, then losing interest, as the United States of America might do if the war on terrorism were to take a better or a different turn. Let us persist and finish the job. A thousand dollars a head is not riches, but it would be a great deal better than $300.

7.01 pm

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I want to speak about the use and abuse of language, and then about real British interests, since both should guide our policies in the Middle East. We should beware of rhetoric—our own and that of others, including enemies.

The war on terror, or terrorism, is an idle phrase because states of mind and ideologies cannot be overcome by military means. War on terrorists is possible, but they must first be identified, usually by good intelligence. If one lot of active terrorists is eliminated, another group is all too likely to spring up unless local hearts and minds have first been won over. That can seldom be done by force of arms. The terrorist—or freedom-fighter, as he probably sees himself—conducts an asymmetrical hit-and-run kind of war. Experience of this in Northern Ireland and in a variety of other post-imperial situations shows that clear-cut military victory can seldom be achieved, as indeed Israel has discovered on several occasions in Lebanon.

We should study carefully the findings of the American academic Mr RA Pape of Chicago, who examined hundreds of suicide bombings since 1980 and found that few were committed by intensely religious people. More than 90 per cent were carried out by young people moved by anger and despair directly related to perceived or real occupation of land by foreign forces—usually, I am sorry to say, democratic ones. This perhaps also points to the need to distinguish between ordinary bombings and those with the added dimension of suicide. We should avoid a black and white analysis of absolute good on the one hand and absolute evil on the other. It is surely dangerous to lump together all forms of extreme violence.

We should note that in Iraq the absence of law and order has given scope for kidnapping and extortion. It has probably allowed latent sectarianism to drive out those seen as a threat. It is important to distinguish between violence that stems from grievances or suppressed identities and that which is ideological or religious.

It is clear already that our foreign and home policies cannot be other than closely connected. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. It is in our real interest to secure the greatest possible degree of world peace and the maximum social cohesion at home. This does not mean that we should give way to threats or violence. It means, however, that we should know the conflicting parties and distinguish those

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who may be irreconcilable from those who are sometimes prepared to negotiate, stripping away, if possible, the veils of rhetoric.

A second important British interest is not to follow slavishly in the wake of American foreign policy without receiving tangible benefits for doing so. We seem to have somewhat different conceptions of democracy and the rule of law. A more detached alliance with the United States might allow us to improve the effectiveness of our own Armed Forces and give stronger leadership on urgent global issues, such as climate change or the reform of world institutions.

In the Middle East, we should explore the aims and goals of Hamas and Hezbollah. I agree very much with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. We may think we know what they want, but are we accurate and fully up to date? We should bear in mind that each of those movements is rooted in a single population; each has democratic credibility and has shown that it can provide a certain standard of honest local administration; each represents a wider constituency than just its own members. Neither movement appears to have plans for worldwide revolution.

I hope that it is not too heretical to suggest that this kind of thinking should be extended to al-Qaeda. Of course this network has blood on its hands, but so did the Mau Mau, the EOKA and the IRA. Surely it is right to offer non-violent options to all fringe and extremist groups to reduce the attractions of force and increase the rewards of dialogue. Al-Qaeda appears to have operated as a manager or link between a variety of terror franchises. Is it beyond the bounds of possibility to discover from the central nucleus whether there may be points at which a negotiating process could begin? This may be particularly relevant to Afghanistan.

In our previous debate on Israel and Palestine, I called for,

Since then, it is encouraging to say, ceasefires and some talks about talks have begun. There have also been changes within the United States Government and possibly new approaches there to diplomatic priorities. In my view, Israel and Palestine remain the key sector. Our diplomats, supplemented on occasion by voluntary organisations and academics, are a key asset. Their skills of analysis and discernment should be given full scope. They should be listened to with the greatest care. Why should they go on reporting if their reports remain unread?

I return to my theme of language. “Sulha” describes an ancient Arab and Middle East practice of reconciliation between warlike tribes. It has existed for centuries to prevent acts of revenge and disastrous feuds. Sulha builds in collective wisdom and common legal principles. The good news is that the Sulha Peace Project, closely linked with the three faiths’ Abrahamic Reunion, is working to bring Israelis and Palestinians into dialogue and towards joint action for peace. Some of their members are even able to cross into Lebanon and act as intermediaries there. The Sulha Peace Project is only one small movement

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among many others, striving to build bridges of peace, but it points towards an important wider concept.

There can be no doubt that diplomatic effort is needed, but it must be supplemented by civil society and religious leadership to create public opinion that will not be satisfied until real progress is made towards the just and lasting peace that we all desire. I say long live the diplomatic, civil and religious troika. Top-down agreements have little chance of working unless they are complemented by harmonious and right relationships built from the bottom upwards. This is a lesson we should draw from Northern Ireland and Bosnia. I trust it is equally applicable in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

7.10 pm

Lord Dahrendorf: My Lords, many speakers in this debate have referred to the key role of the Israel-Palestine issue for the future of the Middle East. I do not disagree with them, though one is bound to wonder whether the existence of an independent state of Palestine would have prevented the Iraq war or would have contributed to the solution of the present predicament. Having said that, I turn to an issue which might appear marginal in the context of a Middle East debate, but of which I shall try to argue that it is anything but marginal; that is, Turkey.

The Iraq war has had a whole series of clearly unintended consequences. It has, for example, enhanced the role of Iran both in the region and more generally in an unexpected way. It has exacerbated the conflict between Sunnis and Shias. It has exacerbated the Israel-Palestine conflict. It has unfortunately led to quite deep divisions between the United States and Europe; and—let us make no bones about it—they are quite profound at this stage. But above all, it has led to a massive radicalisation of Islamic politics. That is true in the region but it is in some ways true all over the world. One of the big questions with which we are faced is how this general radicalisation of Islamic politics can be, if not stopped, at least controlled and gradually changed.

That will not happen in Iraq. I was one of those who initially supported the war, but in my view damage limitation is now almost the only option there. It is not likely to happen in Afghanistan where, as I see it, we are likely to see for a long time at best a precarious balance of warlords and drug mafia and, one hopes, a growing number of groups, of forces and above all of individuals who are looking for a life in freedom.

It is crucial that the regimes—the Governments whom the Minister in his introductory speech called “moderate and democratic”—are strengthened and are certainly not further weakened. A lot of weakening has happened. “Moderate and democratic” has become quite a strange combination of words because “democratic” for all of us means elections, and elections in these states may in fact have strengthened the radicalisation of Islamic politics. In other words, we cannot argue that elections are the solution to the

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problem of the radicalisation of Islamic politics—and that holds in Egypt as it does in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

To come back to my main point, I think we have to be deeply concerned about the future of moderate Islamic Governments, wherever they are, and should do everything we can to strengthen their hand rather than weaken it. And this is where Turkey comes into the picture—in my view in a crucial place because, if you will pardon my saying so, in Iraq, despite the presence of troops, we can do relatively little. In Afghanistan much of what we do is hope. But in the case of Turkey, there are things which we can do, and we can do them now and in the immediate future. And the terrible thing is that at precisely this time, we in Europe are doing the wrong things in our relations with Turkey. The country is sliding away from the West.

Next year will be an election year in Turkey; 2007 is a crucial election year. In the late spring—the date has not yet been fixed—there will be presidential elections. In the late autumn—in October or November—there will be parliamentary elections. We may well see the results of a situation which has been created not least by the obvious awkwardness, to put it mildly, in the relationship between the European Union and Turkey. In my view it is highly risky, indeed politically totally wrong, to stop or even stall the negotiations with Turkey at this point. I do not want to be misunderstood. It is clear that when Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, the issue of Cyprus will have to have been resolved. I see no reason why it should be resolved this year in these weeks with a set date at this point. It is quite clear that the Copenhagen criteria will have to be applied to Turkey in full but I see no reason why we should now say that they probably will not be and therefore the bona fide negotiations with a view to full membership of Turkey in the European Union should be stalled. We have to continue to negotiate with the intention of full membership and we have to do that here and now.

This means—this is my main point—that we have to support the commissioner who negotiates in the light of the Council decisions of objectives and method. I implore Her Majesty’s Government to insist in Council meetings that the statements made by both German and French Government representatives these days have to stop. When one is in the middle of a negotiation, one does not attack the other side in this way, or suggest that one does not want a successful outcome of these negotiations. I worry about the fact that on this very day, the German Chancellor, the French President and the Polish Prime Minister have their routine meetings in which the German Chancellor proposes a formal decision by the Council of Ministers to introduce a clause into the negotiating mandate for Turkey which will make it necessary to have another unanimous decision to continue at a later date. I very much hope that Her Majesty’s Government will take not only the line which they have taken in any case, but a very strong line and that they will argue not only in the terms in which the Turkish issue is often argued but in the wider terms that are the subject of this debate.



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Once again, I hope that noble Lords will not regard this as a distraction. Turkey is a moderate Islamic country that is well on the way to democracy as we use the term; above all, it is well on the way towards the separation of religion and law and therefore a country that needs and deserves support. It should be an example for other moderate Islamic countries around the whole region that is our subject in this important and useful debate.

7.20 pm

Earl Attlee: My Lords, at this stage of the debate much has been said by noble Lords far better qualified than me, but I have some observations. First, the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, talked about the unintended consequences of the invasion of Iraq; I have another. I served in Headquarters 1 (UK) Armoured Division in Iraq in March 2003. At all levels, we honestly believed that we faced a threat from chemical or biological weapons. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that we were not deterred; we had countermeasures, training and brilliant leadership. What does that tell the rest of the world? Very simply, it says that US/UK forces will not be deterred by the threat of chemical or biological weapons. Since very few non-nuclear states can resist a conventional attack by US/UK forces through the use of conventional weapons alone, the only way a state can acquire an ultimate guarantee of security—to use the language of yesterday’s Statement on Trident—is to have some form of nuclear weapon, even without an effective missile-delivery system. Little wonder, therefore, that Iran actively seeks nuclear weapons. The fact that our invasion of Iraq was of questionable legality and necessity does not help.

My second point is that many noble Lords are concerned about military overstretch. Your Lordships have worried about tour intervals for at least a decade, but I shall add a little more detail than even the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, gave us. Some time ago I asked the then Defence Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, for how many years we had operated outside defence planning assumptions. He erroneously answered, “None”. A suitable letter was sent to me and placed in the Library, adding more detail, as its introduction put it. The fact is that we have operated outside the DPAs for many years. That should keep alarm bells ringing in Defence Ministers’ offices continuously.

The Government have also quietly reduced our capability under defence planning assumptions. We are now able to conduct either two small-scale enduring operations or one medium-scale enduring operation; “medium-scale” means a brigade. Alternately, we can make one large-scale intervention—“intervention” implies a short timescale, about six months—and follow it with a medium-scale sustaining operation. So what are we currently doing? The answer is two medium-scale-plus operations—Operation TELIC in Iraq and Operation Herrick in Afghanistan—in addition to several minor operations.

As we know, both operations are very challenging—we have talked about the problems

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today, so I shall not repeat them—but what is the effect? It is not just the problem of the tour interval alone—the pressure on the serviceman—that noble Lords have talked about. The problem is lack of training. Yes, there is good training for the current operations, but we are not training enough for the ability to prosecute a high-intensity operation at the large scale of effort. We are building into our Regular Army and other Armed Forces a weakness because, in time, officers at all levels will have missed out on vital training experience. I think that many noble Lords were surprised at the weakness exposed in the Israel Defense Forces recently. The military costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan may be far higher than realised, because they are hidden. Worse still, no amount of extra resources later will be able to replace that loss of training and experience. It will be built into our Armed Forces for years to come.


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