Afghanistan

Nato – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 16th May 2011.

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Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark 2:30 pm, 16th May 2011

What plans his Department has to reinforce troops in Afghanistan over the summer campaigning season.

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Following the increase in troop numbers as a result of the international security assistance force surge in the second half of 2010 and the continuing increase in both the size and capability of the Afghan national security forces, I am confident that there are sufficient forces in Afghanistan to meet the insurgent threat over the coming months. For that reason, there are no plans to increase the UK’s endorsed force levels.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, but there are a considerable number of troops in Afghanistan, a considerable number of forces operating in Libya, and I have no doubt that further military operations will be required in other parts of north Africa. I understand that defence cuts need to be made, but can he assure me that those currently being discussed will not include any further cuts to combat forces?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I am not aware of the discussions to which my hon. refers, but I can absolutely assure him that there will be no reductions in the number of front-line fighting troops for the very reasons he gives.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

The justification for dismantling improvised explosive devices, rather than blowing them up, is that those who made them can be identified and captured. As this has resulted in the deaths of many of our brave soldiers, should we not alter the policy, particularly now that the prisoners are escaping in such huge numbers?

Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

It is certainly not the case that we always go for the option of dismantling IEDs, as some of them are destroyed, but as part of the ongoing effort to counter the IED threat it is absolutely vital that we have an understanding of how they are made and who is making them. It is absolutely essential intelligence to us—to garner that information on occasions—and we have no intention of changing that approach.