Afghanistan

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2004.

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Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood 2:30 pm, 21st June 2004

What progress has been made on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

Through our contribution to the international security assistance force in Kabul, and to the joint departmental provincial reconstruction teams in north-west Afghanistan, our armed forces help to facilitate the reconstruction programmes of the Afghan Transitional Authority and international development agencies. An essential part of that is supporting the development of Afghanistan's own security forces. We are helping to train the Afghan national army and, through the provincial reconstruction teams, have provided assistance to the Afghan national police.

Photo of Joan Humble Joan Humble Labour, Blackpool North and Fleetwood

I thank the Minister for that reply. When British forces help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan by training police, will they also consider training civilians, ensuring that both men and women are involved in the process, so that we reconstruct not just buildings but civil society in Afghanistan?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

Absolutely. That is one of the main thrusts of the provincial reconstruction team, which is a multi-departmental initiative, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. In Mazar-e-Sharif, the DFID representative has in the region of £1 million to allocate to a range of projects, some of them linked directly to security sector reform, but also to the whole reconstruction effort of rebuilding roads and bridges, reopening schools, reopening courthouses, or opening courthouses where perhaps none have been, and creating that normal society. My hon. Friend raises an important point. That is what our mission is in Afghanistan, and we are beginning to make progress.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell

Would the Minister accept that the people of Afghanistan have been badly let down by NATO in its first out-of-area operation? The troops have failed to arrive, time is running out and the elections are due in September. What will happen at the NATO meeting in Istanbul next month to ensure that troops really are there, that it is not all words, and that there is some action from NATO members?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

I would not agree with the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman that we have let down the people of Afghanistan. I have recounted in response to two separate and subsequent questions the range of activities in which we are engaged, and I have also said that we must live in the real world. Trying to put forward a major new initiative requires a lot of hard discussions and negotiations, and all the various coalition nations must decide what their best input into that is. We have made very good progress, and much more progress will be made. The situation is not ideal in Afghanistan; more remains to be done, and that is what will be addressed in Istanbul next week.