What assessment he has made of the adequacy of equipment provided to the armed forces to counter improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement.
An impressive range of capabilities is in service to counter the threat from IEDs that our armed forces in Afghanistan face; our personnel are trained and equipped to apply a range of tactics, techniques and procedures. Defeating the threat is a vital part of the counter-insurgency campaign, and the equipment we are fielding against these sordid devices is widely recognised as being better than ever. However, as demonstrated by the weekend’s tragic news, which I reported to the House earlier, we are up against a determined enemy and must continue to invest in this area.
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Is he satisfied that we have sufficient equipment levels in place to train Afghan national forces to counter IEDs and that progress is being made in this area?
My hon. Friend speaks with great authority as a gunner who served in Afghanistan two years ago. He certainly knows what he is talking about. I can reassure him that equipping and training the Afghan national security force is a crucial part of NATO’s common counter-IED strategy. It is of course the job of the international security assistance force, which has the lead for training and equipment. I can assure him that the UK comfortably meets its responsibilities in this respect, but it is a challenging task and one to which we are fully committed because it forms the foundation for our eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Will the Minister assure the House that the review and the spending difficulties that the Department has will not affect in any way his commitment to the speed of manufacture, and the number of vehicles manufactured, of the light protected patrol vehicles that are so badly needed in Afghanistan?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I hold him in very high regard and personal esteem, and with some affection. I gently remind him that it is not a problem we have but a problem we inherited, and we are dealing with it. I can, though, give him the categorical assurance that he is seeking that those matters will have no impact on the operations in Afghanistan.