Helmand

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 29th March 2010.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Parliamentary Private Secretary To the Leader of the Opposition 2:30 pm, 29th March 2010

What recent progress has been made in military operations in Helmand province.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Secretary of State for Defence

UK forces continue to work hand in hand with Afghan national security forces to build and maintain security in Helmand province. Progress on Operation Moshtarak grows, with insurgents being displaced from key district centres. Stabilisation activity continues apace, and increasing freedom of movement on key routes is aiding economic development. As I announced on 11 March, security responsibility for Musa Qala is transferring to US forces. This enables the redeployment of UK troops to the heavily populated areas of central Helmand, where the majority of UK troops are operating.

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Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Parliamentary Private Secretary To the Leader of the Opposition

The population of Helmand is overwhelmingly-indeed, almost exclusively-Pashtun, but the Afghan army, with which we want ultimately to replace British forces, is overwhelmingly made up of the Tajik minority. Is that a problem?

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Secretary of State for Defence

It is one that President Karzai and his Ministers are seeking to address. Training has been stepped up quite considerably in terms of numbers, but he has to do everything, both in the police service and in the army, to get a representation of the whole country.

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