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Afghanistan

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 14th March 2005.

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Photo of Professor Ross Cranston Professor Ross Cranston Labour, Dudley North 2:30 pm, 14th March 2005

What progress was made on issues relating to Afghanistan at the recent NATO summit in Nice.

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

Afghanistan is NATO's principal operational priority. Excellent progress was made at Nice regarding the continuing expansion of the NATO-led international security assistance force, as well as moves towards enhanced co-operation and co-ordination with the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. That underscores NATO's long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan build a stable, prosperous and democratic future.

Photo of Professor Ross Cranston Professor Ross Cranston Labour, Dudley North

In relation to Question 4, my right hon. Friend heard from both sides of the House that it is vital that the UK and NATO play an essential part in stabilising Afghanistan. The Department is good at responding to correspondence, but it is disturbing that the Afghanistan entry on the MOD website has not been updated since 2002. Can he give an absolute assurance that the Department fully supports stages 2 and 3 of the international security assistance force expansion and can he give some specific details?

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

I am sorry that the website has not been updated and I shall look into that. I confirm that we are very supportive of stage 2 expansion and are providing significant assistance. We plan to assist a Lithuanian reconnaissance mission to Chaghcharan and our Harriers are also available to support NATO in the west. We have no further plans to participate in stage 2, because our commitments lie in the north, but our aspiration is to move the focus of UK forces from the north to the south and to play a key role in ISAF stage 3. Other NATO allies plan to take over our provincial reconstruction teams in the north. There is a coherent NATO and ISAF programme as we begin to increase our presence across wider regions of Afghanistan.